This was a popular story conceit back in the 80s and 90s.
The [Blank] from Hell. The basic idea is that the Protagonist (and often their family / loved ones) intersect with a character who starts off as seemingly normal, then turns out to be a threatening presence. Examples include:
- Fatal Attraction (1987): The one-night stand from Hell
- Pacific Heights (1990): The renter from Hell
- Sleeping With The Enemy (1991): The husband from Hell
- The Hand That Rocks The Cradle (1992): The nanny from Hell
- The Temp (1993): The temp assistant from Hell
- The Crush (1994): The teenage “puppy love” from Hell
While often a thriller, this story type can also be approached as a comedy:
- Problem Child (1990): The adopted child from Hell
- The Housesitter (1992): The housesitter from Hell
- Beethoven (1992): The family pet from Hell
- Monster-In-Law (2005): The mother-in-law from Hell
The core psychological dynamic at work is fear of stranger, reaching deep into the oldest parts of our ‘lizard brain’ where the focus is on personal survival and any outsider represents a potential threat. On the thriller front, they make for great date movies. Fatal Attraction, which did over $320M B.O. worldwide, is a classic example — the male moviegoer gets to fantasize about having an affair while the female has the opportunity to elbow the dude with a “See, this is what will happen if you cheat on me, find some crazy woman who’ll stalk your family and boil your rabbit” glare.
Any other examples of The [Blank] From Hell movies to add to the list?
For more Move Story Types, go here.