Death Becomes Her: The Best Cult Camp Film of the 1990s

It’s not often you see a zombified Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn going head-to-head in immortal combat with the shovels meant to dig their own graves. Unless you are watching Death Becomes Her (1992), that is. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, the achingly camp black comedy chronicles Streep and Hawn as Madeleine Ashton, a fading actress, and Helen Sharp, an aspiring writer, as two frenemies battling over the affections of plastic surgeon Dr. Ernest Menville (played by Bruce Willis, as a nebbish shadow of his former self). When Madeline steals Dr. Menville from Helen, taking him as her husband, Sharp vows to exact vengeance on her rival, and simultaneously gives a whole a new definition to the idiom ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’.

In the midst of all this melodrama, Lisle von Rhoman – acted by Isabella Rossellini on her best Lynchian form – turns up, offering both Ashton and Sharp the elixir of life (which promises to give them ten years of youth and beauty, whilst also reversing their ageing process). Von Rhoman also embodies a second idiom: ‘if it seems to good to be true, it probably is’; for when the two women meet rather slapstick ends under the influence of her potion, they wind up as the walking dead, bound together for all eternity through a mutual love of botulinum toxin and bitchiness. On the anniversary of the film’s release, we look back at some its important life lessons; particularly the need to be incredibly cautious around marble staircases.

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