Unless you’re somehow one of the lucky few who found your soulmate in junior high, chances are you’ve been with a few guys/girls that you wish you could have stricken from your dating record. But while courtship game has definitely changed – with dating websites like Match.com and eHarmony becoming less stigmatized than they were just a few years ago – the poor decisions have remained the same. We probably all have hook-up horror stories, but sometimes, as the following films demonstrate, our innate desires for companionship, fulfillment, or just some old-fashioned bump-and-grind can keep us from seeing the forest for the skeeze.
Play Misty For Me (1971) – Clint Eastwood’s directorial debut is one of the earliest woman-scorned classics. Sporting some of the best hair of his career, he plays Dave, a radio DJ who has a fling with Evelyn (Jessica “Lucille Bluth” Walter from Arrested Development), a fan who always calls to request he play Erroll Garner’s “Misty” for her. Don’t let the film’s age put you off; it’s a classic for a reason. It takes a hell of a woman to make Dirty Harry nervous, and that’s just what Evelyn does. Walter is fantastically creepy as what we’d now call one of the worst stage-five clingers in movie history.
Megan Is Missing (2011) – Full disclosure: This film is poorly scripted, acted, directed, and edited. But it somehow has its share of champions that find its verite approach to the story of tween girls that fall victim to an internet predator to be visceral, impactful, and frightening. Best friends Megan and Amy (Rachel Quinn and Amber Perkins) banter incessantly with their friends and each other for half the film, then Megan runs off to meet a young boy she’s been talking to online. She never returns. We’re given glimpses of Megan’s gruesome fate (in the form of, among other things, some nasty photos from a fetish website) before Amy is taken and subjected to the same torture in a nauseating 22-minute finale of explicit brutality. The filmmakers have spoken out about their intentions to promote internet safety, but any semblance of a message is lost in its shoddy production and wanton exploitation.
Spiral (2007) – Gotta be wary of those quiet, artsy types. Mason (Joel David Moore) is a geeky, asthmatic telemarketer and painter who finds a connection with cute coworker Amber (Amber Tamblyn). Watching him stalk a waitress in the rain, we know from the start that Mason has issues. So when Amber poses nude for him in his apartment before spending the night, we know it can’t end well, especially when she finds a drawer full of sketch pads featuring other women that Mason has drawn just like her.
Trust (2010)– This is the movie that Megan Is Missing tried, and failed, to be. It takes a much more understated and realistic approach to its subject matter, about 13-year-old Annie (Liann Liberato in a phenomenal debut), who is seduced and then raped by a man she met in an internet chatroom. But instead of wallowing in lurid sadism like MIM, Trust focuses on the tragic loss of Annie’s innocence, and the psychological toll it takes on her as well as her family. The performances are excellent, especially Liberato and Clive Owen as her devastated father. While not strictly horror in the traditional sense, this is definitely the most poignant and emotionally draining film on this list.
Swimfan (2002) – For a watered-down (no pun intended) PG-13 knockoff of Fatal Attraction, this movie is actually better than you might expect. Ben (Jesse Bradford) is a bright young high school swimmer who slips up one night and cheats on his hot girlfriend by banging new transfer student Madison (Erika Christensen) in the school pool. Naturally, she becomes obsessed with him and makes his life hell. The characters and plot devices are all almost offensively derivative of Adrian Lyne’s classic, but some surprisingly solid acting keeps it from being a total trash fest.
Hard Candy (2005) – Okay, this is my last pick about a pedophile picking up a teen girl online. It’s also the most twisted and satisfying. It starts off with 32-year-old photographer Jeff (Patrick Wilson) meeting 14-year-old Hayley (Ellen Page) in a coffee shop before taking her back to his place for drinks and a naughty photo shoot. Just when you start to get uncomfortable and dread what he has planned for her, the tables turn, and the movie shoots off in a completely unexpected direction. I won’t give away too much, but with the exception of a few brief supporting actors, the film almost entirely rests on the very capable Wilson and Page, whose predator and victim roles continue to reverse until the very end.
Fatal Attraction (1987) – And what else could round out the list but the crowned king of hookup-gone-bad movies? Proudly touted as “a cautionary tale for men,” it’s still the best film yet about the perils of the one night stand. Everyone knows the story: Family man Dan (Michael Douglas) has a steamy tryst with Alex (Glenn Close) while his wife and daughter are away. When he tries to let her down easy, Alex turns eight shades of psycho. She calls him in the middle of the night, cuts herself, and basically tries to destroy his family. Call it an erotic thriller if you like, but the wrist-slitting, car acid, and boiled bunny scenes are still the stuff of every single man’s nightmares.
Honorable Mention: The Loved Ones (2009) – While high school loner Brent (Xavier Samuel) can’t really be faulted for drawing the psychotic affections of Lola (Robin McLeavy), he nonetheless spurns her advances and ends up kidnapped, drugged, stabbed, sliced, and drilled in her attempts to make him the ultimate “prom date.” This Australian gem has gone under a lot of radars, which is a true shame. If the prospect of a John Hughes-inspired slasher movie appeals to you, seek this one out ASAP.