Fatal Attraction is a film long familiar to me (pet rabbit in the stewpot!) through pop culture, but one that I had never actually seen from start to finish. I finally watched it the other night (it’s now streaming on Amazon Prime), and while I found it an entertaining (early) entry in the Psycho Stalker subgenre, I couldn’t help but think that the opportunity for a truly killer ending was missed.
Towards the conclusion of Adrian Lyne’s 1987 film, Dan (Michael Douglas) reaches his breaking point with Alex’s (Glenn Close) harassment and endangerment of his family. Half-crazed himself, he breaks into her apartment and violently attacks her. In the midst of strangling her to death, he appears to come to his senses, and relents. Alex isn’t the forgiving or forgetting type, though, and soon charges at Dan with a butcher knife, which he manages to wrest from her. After a lengthy stare-down, he places the knife on the counter and silently exits.
But what if the scene didn’t end there? Imagine if the unstable Alex–who already slit her wrists earlier in the film because she couldn’t bear the prospect of losing Dan, decided to pick up the knife and kill herself with it after he walked out. Given the signs of forced entry and the fingerprints left on the weapon by Dan, it would be easy for the police to then arrest him for Alex’s presumed murder. To me, this would have been a much more interesting turn of events than the standard climax Fatal Attraction proceeded to present, complete with incidents that had to seem cliched even at the time (wait, she’s not really dead and leaps up for one last attack before being shot!). It would also shift the questionable moral tone of the film, which ends up situating the adulterous Dan as the heroic defender of his family (we last see him having his hand shaken by a policeman, and being drawn into the embrace of his still-loving wife). The alternate ending I’ve envisioned would not leave the character unpunished for his infidelity. How darkly ironic Dan’s fate would have been if he was ruined for doing the right thing morally-speaking (not killing Alex), after the wrong choice he made by having an affair in the first place.
A more downbeat ending for sure, but arguably a more satisfying one. A young Michael Douglas naturally conveyed smugness, so I don’t think viewers would have been all that bummed to see his character receive his comeuppance.