The movie guide to finding a Roommate

With ‘The Roommate’ now showing in cinemas we thought we’d look back at some of the lessons we learnt from house-sharing at the cinema…

It’s probably fair to say that we’ve all shared a flat or a house with some right nutters in our time – I once lived with a guy who stored cooked chicken in a cupboard – but spare a thought for poor Sara Matthews (Minka Kelly) in this week’s new psycho-thriller The Roommate.

Sara thinks she’s found a new BFF when Rebecca Evans (Leighton Meester from Gossip Girl) moves into her college dorm room, but Rebecca soon becomes increasingly obsessed with her new roomie, which is baaaaaad news for everyone else who crosses the girl’s path.

Of course, Sara could have avoided all of this pain and horror if, at the very least, she’d been any way cine-literate, for Hollywood has, over the years, offered up a few obvious things to look out for when entering into new friendships or living arrangements, as well as certain clues to look out for that someone might just be a few slices short of a pan loaf.

*For instance, anyone who had seen the 1992-no-way-they’d-get-away-with-that-unPC-title-today thriller Single White Female would know that it’s probably a good idea to check the references of the new person moving in. Ally (Bridget Fonda) didn’t in that movie and so ended up with shy hair-chewer Hedra (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who quickly transitions from being clingy and needy into full-on crazy mode, copying Ally’s (frankly hideous) hairstyle, stealing her clothes, and making a play for Ally’s boyfriend, which results in the movie’s most notorious scene involving an extra-pointy stiletto shoe. See also Pacific Heights (1990) and Shallow Grave (1994).

Such complacent approaches to CV-vetting also leads to similar chaos in the nanny-from-hell shocker The Hand That Rocks The Cradle (1992) in which trusting mum Claire (Annabella Sciorra) hires Aryan-wet dream Peyton Flanders (Rebecca De Mornay) to look after her little rugrats. If Claire had done her research, she’d have discovered that Peyton is actually the vengeful widow of a pervy gynecologist whom Claire had gotten fired.
Perhaps more pertinently, she’d have copped that Peyton is as mad as a box of tracksuits, and is out to kill her and steal her family. You know what’s the ultimate measure of how evil Peyton is? She even kills the sassy best friend, played by a glorious and fresh-faced then unknown named Julianne Moore. Devil woman!

If someone does move in, for the love of all that’s holy, don’t get a pet. In a tradition inaugurated by the (ahem) seminal Fatal Attraction (1987), a beloved animal is sure to become dragged into the mayhem and is most likely to be offed in increasingly unpleasant ways. In the case of Fatal, obsessed stalker Glenn Close turned an innocent child’s bunny into a stew that would then have been considered disgusting, but today would probably be included on a Michelin star menu with a price tag of €45.
In the aforementioned Single White Female, it’s a golden Labrador that takes the flak, while in The Roommate…well, I’ll let you discover yourselves what happens to the cute fluffy little kitten that the two girls adopt.

Moving on, it’s also worth paying attention to how you dispose of your trash. In The Crush (1993), dreamy renter Nick (Cary Elwes) finds himself the object of affection of the landlord’s teenage minx of a daughter Adrian (played by an up-and-coming – aw, remember when we could say that without ironic smirking? – Alicia Silverstone). In the course of her growing obsession, Adrian resorts to yoinking a used prophylactic from Nick’s trash and using it to make a sexual assault claim against her idol.

Other things to look out for:
*This one seems like a no-brainer, but if your landlord has a series of high-tech cameras rigged throughout your modern apartment complex, chances are pretty high that he’s going to demonstrate mild-to-terrifying voyeuristic tendencies. When he’s played by one of the ‘Not-Alec’ Baldwin brothers – in the case of Sliver (1993), it’s William – those chances increase exponentially. That doesn’t stop vulnerable new tenant Sharon Stone from starting a raunchy affair with him though. Shazza, don’t come crying to us when he turns out to be a madman! (and when you get nominated for a Razzie for the role).
*If you’re holidaying on a yacht out at sea, with nobody around for miles, it’s probably not the smartest move to pick up a stranded sailor as Sam Neill and a frizzy hair/moveable forehead-era Nicole Kidman do in Dead Calm (1989). It doesn’t matter that said seaman (snigger) comes in the strapping form of a pre-Madam Tussauds-looking Billy Zane, whose character soon gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘blood vessel’.
*If your hot husband hires a blonde stunner as a temp, do your utmost to make sure he gets shut of her pronto. Otherwise, you could end up in a scenario like Beyonce in Obsessed (2009), where she finds her husband (Idris Elba) targeted by enamoured basketcase Ali Larter (whose mind was lost while contemplating just how bad series two of Heroes was). Failing that, be sure to have a fabulous chandelier to swing from* for the inevitable psycho-on-the-rampage finale (*still my favourite scene from any movie that year).

*Finally, in brief, a series of professions not to trust even if society tells us we can and must: cop (see Ray Liotta in 1992 thriller Unlawful Entry), nurse (Kathy Bates in Misery), romance novel readers (also Kathy Bates, Misery), photo-processors (Robin Williams, One Hour Photo), and Mark Wahlberg (Fear, real life).

Words – Declan Cashin
THE ROOMMATE is now showing at Irish cinemas