ATAL ATTRACTION" rings the changes on your atavistic emotions. Walking out of the theater, you might have a sudden desire to club a woolly mammoth and hide your family in a dark cave -- away from people like Glenn Close.

Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) is laden with Society's gifts -- a high-paying law partnership, a doting wife, an endearing daughter. But he takes a dumb risk. He has a nostril-flarin' encounter one weekend with shapely publishing executive Alex Forest (Close). After the extramarital steam has dissipated, Dan wants to put this aberration behind him, but the woman has other ideas.

Actually, Alex would be a very nice girl -- if she'd only stop threatening men with cutlery. Oh, and Daa-an: Alex is pregnant and wants to keep the baby. "I just want you to face up to your responsibilities," she says with all the sweetness of an anaconda.

And the squeeze begins. First it's phone calls at the office. Then at 2:30 a.m. at home. Dan comes home one afternoon to see Alex sipping tea with his wife. "Haven't we met?" Alex asks teasingly. It gets worse: acid on Dan's car and nastier tricks with his family. "Fatal" puts the scare tactics of a "Jaws" into a "Kramer vs. Kramer" family-drama setting, and it drove at least one audience to gasps, screams and alarmingly prehistoric applause -- particularly during the climactic finale.

Close gives Alex dimension. This woman, who appreciates opera as much as occasional wrist-slashing, can be as demure as a librarian. She can also be suddenly sexy (which is how Dan, played convincingly by Douglas, got into this mess in the first place). Her justifications for her actions (a need for a rewarding human relationship without kitchen utensils) make her quite a tragic figure -- until she becomes the female equivalent of the vengeance-crazed Robert Mitchum in "Cape Fear" or the robotic Arnold Schwarzenegger in "The Terminator."

Close should take pride in her performance. She should also expect a depressing avalanche of scripts requiring a she-wacko. FATAL ATTRACTION (R) At area theaters.