I saw the poster for When the Bough Breaks yesterday and didn’t know what to say about it other than, “This obviously has something to do with a baby and/or pregnancy, and I’m not sure I want to know any more than that.” Now that it’s trailer has been released, my initial hunch is confirmed.
When the Bough Breaks, similar to last year’s The Boy Next Door, is a throwback to the kind of lurid domestic thrillers that once enjoyed a brief boom at the box office before becoming archetypal Lifetime Movie Network productions.
This was in the late 80’s and early 90’s, not so coincidentally around the same time that the popularity of slasher movies was bottoming out. These were films that Roger Ebert once described as “horror films for yuppies.” They all followed the same broad formula; the seemingly idyllic life of a well-to-do family / single urban professional is disrupted by an individual who seems friendly at first, but is soon revealed to be an obsessive, manipulative, homicidal psychopath. Movies like Pacific Heights, Unlawful Entry and Single White Female rode that formula to commendable profits, while a few others were flat out hits. Fatal Attraction was the second biggest movie of 1987, Sleeping With the Enemy landed in the top 10 in its year of release, and even without significant star power The Hand That Rocks the Cradle pulled in more money domestically in 1992 than intended blockbusters Under Siege, Patriot Games and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. That was the last time a movie such as this came within sight of the annual box office top 10, however.
That doesn’t mean When the Bough Breaks is unlikely to find success. These types of movies are experiencing a bit of a resurgence, either by featuring largely “ethnic” casts / leads (2009’s Obsession, 2014’s No Good Deed, last year’s The Perfect Guy and the aforementioned The Boy Next Door) or promising and delivering on some kind of swerve (2015’s The Gift). Revisiting familiar plot points also helps. The Perfect Guy essentially updated Sleeping with the Enemy, and Obsession was basically “Fatal Attraction without the infidelity.” When the Bough Breaks looks like its alternate title could be Fatal Attraction of the Single Black Female Hand That Rocks the Cradle.