Suddenly re-interested in seeing Single White Female, I discovered to my delight that it has not one, but TWO direct-to-DVD sequels; this, and the even lower-budget Single Black Female. I was actually more interested in watching the knockoffs than the original, and now that I’ve seen then, you know, I think I can wait a little bit before watching the first.
We open with the cheesiest title credit known to humanity, a problem that also plagued the fairly superior, also direct-to-DVD Butterfly Effect 2 , and it’s like: WHY do they do this? The rest of the movie doesn’t look THAT bad, why put a title than looks like it was generated by the local cable access company right at the front? Maybe Verne and Albita’s Used Collectibles and Video Graphic Hut has a lock on the straight-to-video market? You got me. During this time we see a young girl find her mother, who has killed herself in the bath. Why do movie suicides always fill the bath all the way to the brim? Don’t they have that overflow guard everyone else worldwide has? Anyway, somebody has some childhood trauma… thing is, though, the movie doesn’t let us know who it was. The heroine? The bitch? The psycho? Also in here we must notice that this movie ostensibly about female psychology was written by three men.
We then join our heroine, Holly, getting ready to go out for the evening with her roommate, Jan. Holly has orange hair out of a bottle, which she often matches her lip shade and outfits too [it’s her signature color!], and is sort of a wan Sarah Michelle Gellar with less acting range [which is apparently the nexus here; the roommate in Single Black Female had quite a bit of the SMG, too]. Her roommate, Jan, has a black bob and two facial expressions: “Wanna screw?” and bitchy gloating. The two New York City women put an inordinate amount of time into choosing their panties, and we see much footage of them walking around in their underwear, all of which is of the Victoria’s Secret variety, that SOOOOO many women casually wear every day!
It would hap that these two roommates and best friends also work at the same publicity company and are in a cutthroat competition for the same promotion. Jan smugly tells Holly that whatever happens, “It’s not personal,” to which Holly replies “It is to me,” because she really wants that position and is ready to fight to get it. They are both assigned to land a restaurant client, an assignment that carries the heavy suggestion that they prostitute themselves to get it [is this common in the world of publicity?], and both go after the guy, David, with suggestive, competitive gusto. Holly wins! David takes her home, they have some required softcore, and we discover that David and Holly are accomplices: they have been having an affair for a while, that Holly has kept completely secret from her best friend and roommate, and now Holly will appear to “win” the account and get a boost up for the promotion by CHEATING her friend. This is our heroine, by the way. After some other win in Chicago, she’ll be a lock for the promotion! But that means she’ll have to leave David’s restaurant opening to Jan. Oh well, what damage can she do?
Turns out all is fair in the vicious, cutthroat world of restaurant publicity. Holly gets to Chicago only to find that she has no hotel reservation, and there’s no event. She gets home to find Jan all smug—she set Holly up!—and who is this, fresh outta Jan’s snatch?—why, it’s Holly’s boyfriend David! Can you believe she’d stoop so low? Of course, it doesn’t matter that Holly was going to screw Jan, that’s okay, but Jan screwing Holly, that is like, unconscionable.
Holly freaks out, throws shit, and tells them they’ll both pay. This had me hoping that Holly would bring some smackdown, or maybe even team up with, aid or abet her psycho new roommate, but I’ll spoil for you now that this Holly is just so many empty threats.
Nevertheless, she obviously has to get a new roommate, stat. She goes to work and spends the morning looking through the classifieds. This is another in the trend we’re noticing lately in which no one in movies ever does any WORK at work. They’re just paid to hang around, chat, have coffee, and run their personal lives. I love it, particularly as articles are starting to appear now about entitled, narcissistic youngsters entering the work force and being SHOCKED that they are expected to work and that their good intentions and fashion sense actually don’t make up for poor performance. So she looks around and has various reject roommates—including one punk woman with a band called Sacred Orafice—before finding the perfect situation. It’s a CAVERNOUS apartment with a nice woman names Tess, who seems to be socially awkward and dorky in a way one wants in a roommate: she won’t play loud music, she’ll be depressed and stay in her room a lot, and she’ll provide no competition in the fabulousness department. Especially not under that dead octopus wig. Holly confides her roommate trauma to Tess, who makes Tess take pity on her—and of course, latches onto her in psychotic co-dependence. She even helps Holly move in! She’s an instant new best friend. We establish a basement storage room that will obviously later prove to be where Tess keeps documentation of her murderous past.
Holly and Jan have another little bathroom bitch-fest, and once more Holly threatens to bring the pain. Well then BRING IT, bitch! It’s easy to have a big mouth. And sadly, Holly’s big mouth only comes off like this—she’s completely impotent, so she just utters empty threats and tries to maintain a confident façade. She then decides to take her new best friend Tess shopping for something to wear to David’s restaurant opening, and here’s where the dead octopus wig really becomes apparent. It’s there obviously because Tess is about to change her hair to be like Holly’s, and they obviously didn’t want to REALLY change her hair. Plus, she’s supposed to be a psychologically-fractured asocial nutcase, and obviously that means that she’s skinny, gorgeous and hot, with her own set of Victoria’s Secret undies, but has mildly bad hair. Anyway, Jan’s working the door at David’s restaurant opening, and brutally turns Tess away, insulting her new dress and being super condescending. She then runs straight to Holly and tells her what she did, justifying it that “We’re trying to create a scene here.” Holly runs home and apologizes, and Tess confides her secret pain: There was this guy in high school who was with Tess’ BFF Elizabeth, then left for college and totally dropped her. Elizabeth killed herself! When the guy found out, he was so sorry… so sorry that he had to fuck Tess, too, and she is apparently so disloyal to her friend and generally needy that she went for it. He then dropped her, too! And Tess tried to kill herself, too! Oh, curse men who make women so desperate and needy! What is the woman supposed to do—stay away from proven losers? But this situation is the same as in The Rage: Carrie 2, and HOW AMAZING it would have been if they’d overlapped the storylines to create a two spin-off sequels of two different movies. Man, Hollywood NEEDS me. I’m an idea man.
So Holly sets Tess up with this guy from work, Sam, and it’s like—wait a minute, LOOK how small he is compared to her! We have numerous shots with him in the foreground, and Holly further away, and yet she’d greatly larger than him [see at right]. What is he, a dwarf? A pygmy? You expect the scene to end with her reaching out her hand and putting him in her pocket. Anyway, they have a date, and Tess comes home saying Sam sexually assaulted her! This goes nowhere. Then Holly comes home to find that Tess has done her hair the same way as hers—bye bye, octopus wig!—and then follows literally the identical scene from the original, including Tess saying that “It just looks so good on you,” and offering to change it back immediately. It is so much the same and so jarring that one suspects something like [pure speculation, I have no evidence for this] the company told the filmmaker to include more scenes like the original, so he inserted an identical scene just for spite. Then Holly sees Tess go out—in Holly’s clothes and looking exactly like her—to this fetish club, where she sees her engaging in asphyxiation play. When she gets home she makes a play for Holly and reveals herself to be a lesbian—a thread parodied in Single Black Female—and wants to talk about her erotic asphyxiation habit, but Holly doesn’t want to hear it.
SPOILERS > > >
So Tess works as a nurse, and she’s one of those people that kills elderly patients, a fact that related only very tangentially to the rest of the story. Meanwhile, Holly gets back together with David—I guess her threats didn’t mean all that much—and Tess does not approve of this one bit. “He doesn’t care for you like I do,” she says. Then Holly wins the promotion and seconds later buries the hatchet with Jan, saying they’re “friends.” I’m sorry—WHAT?! She slept with your man all to screw you for this job and showed that she cares nothing for her best friend as a person and was a total bitch about it all… and that’s it, you’re just going to forget about it all? Holly obviously has the moral fiber of wet toilet paper, and I suspect that those double threats of serious retaliation are going to go nowhere. And my interest drops to near zero. And hey—wasn’t someone supposed to go psycho here at some point? Jesus!
That happens in short order, as Tess calls Jan, pretending to be Holly, and invites her over. Jan gets a knife in the belly, but without any serious recriminations over what she did to Holly, and barely any pointing out that the abdominal stabbing she’s about to receive is a direct result of her being such a bitch to Tess. I’m sorry, maybe I’m just a really vengeful person, but I want to at least vicariously see people pay for their misbehavior—especially when it’s as egregious as Jan’s. But no, few recriminations, and a relatively peaceful death by stabbing. She deserved worse.
Next thing you know, Holly receives the clipping at work about Tess’ past as a psychopath, and Tess, not one to let the grass grow under her feet, calls to invite David over to dinner. Holly can’t call him because, oh, he just happened to leave his cell phone at work. Okay, as if one of these little psychological vacuums is EVER going to be more than two feet away from their cell phone. Nevertheless, Tess drugs him, and sooner than you can say swizzle stick has him framed for sexual assault. Holly finally investigates Tess’ carefully highlighted repositories of clippings about her past victims. Why do movie serial killers always maintain such boxes? If they’re going to go to all this effort, why don’t they—save for the psycho from Swimfan—organize them into scrapbooks? Anyway, as an added bonus, Holly also finds Jan folded neatly and packed neatly into the big trunk downstairs. Tess has got some sensible storage solutions for contemporary apartment living. Folding one’s corpses can free up space for guest towels and off-season bedding!
So Holly goes upstairs—and Tess is there! With a knife! Tess’ idea is that they’ll have a little suicide pact, but Holly should go first. She’s already filled up the tub [to the rim, natch!] just so she can have a little traumatic re-enactment [turns out it was Holly traumatized in the first scene]. But then Holly stabs Tess! She runs out into the hall [leaving the knife behind—she won’t need that again] to find the detective who has figured out something’s up, then—Tess stabs him! And Holly picks up the detective’s gun [hope she turned the safety off… oh, I forgot, you don’t have to do that in movies!] and holds it on Tess! And you’re like “Isn’t this all a little tepid, and these actors rather nonplussed, considering lives are being lost at a rapid rate?” Tess gives a little speech about how awesome it is when you’re watching someone die, and Holly shoots her in the shoulder! And Tess… dies? That’s IT? Shot in the shoulder and dies? WTF??? There’s a short epilogue where David and Holly are looking for a new apartment and, the end.
< < < SPOILERS END
It was definitely worse than it had to be. Nothing about it is absolutely awful, but all the individual elements are so lame, they all add up to an overall lame picture. The initial competitive situation between Holly and Jan sets up a lot of interesting directions this thing could go in… Jan’s the psycho and is going to mess with Holly both at work and at home! Holly is wronged… and gets her righteous revenge! Holly gets a new psycho roommate… and teams with her to bring down her enemies! But no, instead we get first-movie-retread with an overly clingy roommate who kills anyone that comes between them. And then when we finally do get to some killing and psycho, it is so tepid and boring it can’t match the promise of scandal from the beginning. And all of the actors are daytime television quality. The direction is nothing special. The whole thing looks somewhat cheesy. And in too many ways it just repeats the original.
But let’s investigate with special focus the character relationships. Holly is our hero, but she is far from an admirable person. The first thing we see her do is try to screw her best friend Jan, then she’s all upset when Jan screws her. Jan is a truly despicable person, yet Holly is ready to just forget and forgive—after failing to make good on her empty threats to mess with her in a serious way. Holly’s just a big wishy-washy idiotic nothing. This is our heroine? Then Tess, the psycho of the title, just isn’t nearly psycho enough, and isn’t very fun AT ALL when she finally starts killing people. I like to see my killers TAUNT their prey or at least be a little scary, instead of “Pleasant conversation/idle chit-chat/stab,” which is what happens here. And let’s not even go into Tess’ “psychology.” She’s a clingy lesbian with a taste for life-threatening SM who loves watching death and murders patients and lost a good friend, so that makes her crazy? Is that it? It’s kind of “Let’s just throw in everything that comes to mind!” and let me again remind you that this was written by three men, which makes stuff like the bitchfest between the women, Tess’ predatory lesbianism, and the way David gets easily forgiven for sleeping with Holly’s best friend edge into the offensive. Well, no, they ARE offensive, it’s just that this whole thing is of such little consequence, who cares. Watching this now, I realize that Single Black Female was actually parodying a lot of the stuff that happens here.
And overall, it’s just not as juicy as you want it to be. It’s tepid. It throws out lots of promise it doesn’t deliver on. The original is not a classic, but it was kind of fun, decently acted, and had a much more sensible psychology to its characters. Give this one a wide berth—it’s nowhere near as fun as it should have been.
No, it sucks, although strictly speaking, it won’t kill you.
SINGLE WHITE FEMALE is the original and is a decent-enough psycho thriller.
SINGLE BLACK FEMALE is the ultra low-budget second sequel, set in the African-American community.