Single White Female Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Barbet Schroeder
Written by Don Roos
1992, 107 minutes, Rated R
Released on November 13th, 2018
Bridget Fonda as Allison Jones
Jennifer Jason Leigh as Hedra Carlson
Steven Weber as Sam Rawson
Peter Friedman as Graham Knox
Stephen Tobolowsky as Mitchell Myerson
Allison Jones has recently moved to New York and everything is going her way. She has a great apartment, a loving fiancé and her startup business is taking off. Good things never last however and soon she finds out that her fiancé Sam has cheated on her with his ex-wife. Allison is in need of some space and she also could use a roommate to keep her company. She places an ad in the paper and interviews a string of potential housemates before settling on the quirky Hedra Carlson. The two hit it off and Hedra helps Allison navigate her rocky relationship with Sam, who is determined to win back her trust. He eventually earns a second chance and this is where things get weird. Hedra takes this reunion as a personal rejection of their friendship and starts acting out. Allison tries to make things right and soon everything goes back to normal – for a little while. Hedra is mentally ill and growing more dangerous by the day. Can Allison break this relationship off without getting hurt or will she have to fight for her life to get away from this budding psycho?
The 1990s introduced the “____ from Hell” subgenre of horror, where seemingly every occupation was touched upon at some point. The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992) gave us the nanny from Hell and The Temp (1993) introduced us to the co-worker from Hell. Single White Female delivers the roommate from Hell and is one of the better entries in this growing trend. Based on the novel SWF Seeks Same by John Lutz and adapted to film by screenwriter Don Roos (Diabolique, 1996), this picture follows the standard guidelines of a successful thriller and manages to do so effortlessly. Director Barbet Schroeder (Barfly) builds suspense as he continues to tighten the coil inside Hedra, sending her deeper and deeper into madness. Soon she graduates from someone mentally disturbed to full-blown murderess and the tension ratchets up quickly.
Bridget Fonda (Lake Placid) stars as Allison Jones, the vulnerable heroine of our story. She can’t seem to catch a break as the dominoes begin toppling in her life. First her fiancé, then her job and finally her roommate all seem to be lining up against her. Fonda is instantly likeable and plays well off her co-stars. Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hitcher) shines as the troubled Hedra Carlson. She carries a lot of the picture, giving another powerful performance as we have come to expect throughout her career. Leigh and Fonda share a great onscreen chemistry and bring a lot of credibility to their roles. Steven Weber (The Shining, 1997) plays the well-meaning yet still philandering fiancé Sam. He is a shit, but is trying to do better, making him an unexpected challenge to Hedra’s agenda. Many films of the ‘90s feature a gay best friend as the voice of reason and in this picture the role is filled by Peter Friedman (The Seventh Sign) as upstairs neighbor Graham Knox. He plays Allison’s sounding board and conscience and even pops up as a contrived plot device later in the film.
Single White Female is a familiar story that came out at the right time to score with audiences. The plot may be standard by-the-numbers fare, but the performances really sell the piece. Leigh is the standout in the cast and is both sympathetic and threatening at the same time. Schroeder keeps things tight with little room for bloated exposition, instead allowing the plot to evolve naturally. The “from Hell” pictures rarely depended on blood or body counts to define themselves, opting instead for genuine suspense. This picture follows the trend and stands out in terms of how well it pulls it off. It has been a while since I last saw the movie and was surprised by how it still manages to grip viewers’ attention. It will likely give some audience members pause before inviting a stranger into their house.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Single White Female looks really good with a solid transfer that is quite pleasing to the eye. Colors and black levels are appropriately strong with plenty of small-object detail.
A DTS-HD MA 2.0 track is simple and effective since the first two thirds of the picture are dialogue-heavy. There is some nice play in the stereo mix that brings exteriors to life and enhances some of the more suspenseful moments of the last half hour.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Scream Factory delivers a nice package of special features on this disc, starting with an audio commentary featuring director Barbet Schroeder, editor Lee Percy and associate producer Susan Hoffman. The trio is full of production information and starts off strong before submitting to the siren call of watching the movie in silence. Comments are peppered throughout, but there are some extended gaps.
In the New York Interview (27 minutes), director Schroeder sits down to answer questions and reflect on his experience making his first studio picture. He talks about the importance of rehearsals and working closely with his cast and crew. He points to his strong working relationship with his editor and cinematographer as well as sharing his thoughts on how the studio system has changed over the years.
Actor Steven Weber discusses his role in the segment The Fiancé Sam Rawson (20 minutes). He tells how he approached the role and what it was like working with Schroeder, Fonda and Leigh. He has fond memories of the whole experience and seems happy with the work.
Upstairs with Graham Knox (7 minutes) catches up with actor Peter Friedman, who shares stories of his time working on the film.
Screenwriter Don Roos is featured in the segment SWF Seeks Writer (26 minutes), in which he compares his script with the original novel and discusses the many changes throughout. He talks about how the film launched his career and what his initial reaction was and why.
The original theatrical trailer is included here and spoils a lot of the plot – so watch it only after screening the film.