Fatal Attraction has set the standard on what obsession films should be. A sultry potboiler that showcases the slow evolution of a woman slowly losing her mind over a man that she believed loved her. It’s often regarded as one of the best obsession films ever made, though there’s been a few that has topped the quality of the 1973 thriller. One of those few is actually Misery, which is deemed one of Stephen King’s best movie adaptations. After a serious car crash, the former nurse takes in a popular novelist. What at first seems as if Annie is helping take care of Paul Sheldon, her obsession with Paul’s work takes a dark turn when she discovers that her favorite character is being killed off.
The Stephen King adaptation won Katy Bathes an Oscar for Best Actress, making her the only actor to win an Academy Award based on a Stephen King novel. Other notable obsession films are Fear, Sleeping with the Enemy, Cape Fear, and One Hour Photo. There have been plenty of other obsession genre films to hit theaters; however, after the failure of The Boy Next Door, there just hasn’t been much to speak of lately. Why? Well, let’s get the most obvious out of the way first, the specialty genre isn’t exactly lighting up the box office. There’s been a couple of films that have hit over the $100 million mark (Sleeping with the Enemy, Cape Fear); however, nothing has come close to reaching the $500 million mark. The thing is, obsession films aren’t even as close to expensive as Marvel or DC movies, so it’s not, particularly the fact that they aren’t making that sort of money. Though, if they were, then you would surely see more of these types of films. Though, Netflix’s popular You series showcases that there’s an audience who enjoys this juicy content.
Another key factor is the abysmal critic’s responses to most of these obsession movies. Every movie is made with the intention of getting back their financial investment; however, select films are also made with the hope of receiving recognition from the Oscars or Golden Globes. More often than not, obsession films have been trashed by critics. The main source of issues with obsession films is that they haven’t evolved that much following the 90s. The popular model for these movies is Fatal Attraction, with the recent ones being The Boy Next Door, When the Bough Breaks, Swimfan, and Obsessed. Unfortunately, the template of the 1973 thriller seems based on cliff notes instead of comparing why that film was so great. Too many times, obsession films tend to only care about the crazy antics of the film, ignoring the slow build that allows for character development.
Alex wasn’t a crazy nut out of the gate. Her character developed to the point of where she became the obsessed monster in the third act. Obviously, the point of an obsession film is to watch when all hell breaks loose, but when it features a cast of characters that audiences could care less about, then the journey getting there is often bland and forgettable. There needs to be an evolution that strays away from the Fatal Attraction formula. It’s a great film, but it’s no Godfather. The predictably of these movies have lessened audiences enthusiasm to sell out money to see more because we understand what the end result will be. The story beats will play out in a manner that’s expected because it’s following a certain model that’s vastly outdated. Given the social media/digital age, the fact that more films haven’t focused on stalking/obsession in the modern age is truly shocking as there’s strong potential to resonate with a new demographic who can identify with the modern times. Fans simply wants a movie that’s fun to watch. It doesn’t have to be an Academy Award picture like Misery or Cape Fear. Understandably, films in general aren’t necessarily easy to make; however, obsession movies like these often feels like an experiment made for a quick buck, not value entertainment.
They’re just not a hot commodity that mainstream audiences are dying for. This has nothing to do with the popularity of comic book films, as the demographic targeted for those two genre are vastly different. In fact, it would actually be a great counterbalance for the female audience who aren’t particularly interested in seeing Batman’s 100th adventure. Until the quality of obsession genre movies step up, it’ll always be seen as nothing more than a movie that audiences could wait for television to see.