Streaming age heats up the forgotten genre of sexual desire

Based on your relative ease with explicit sexual content, at the 80 minute mark of Amazon Prime Video’s new original movie voyeurs, featuring The white lotus Sydney Sweeney escape, you might find yourself wiggling awkwardly in place, consciously turning to the other important person you’ve tune in to and meeting them with an icebreaker laugh or a raised eyebrow.

For writer-director Michael Mohan, it’s a mission accomplished. “My hope is that you say, ‘Oh my God, I want to watch but I’m not sure I should,'” he laughs at the climax of the movie (sincerely wanted pun) near the sex scene of 10 minutes, which turns the title of the film on its viewers. “It’s a bit much, and maybe it lasts a long time too long.”

The film, about a young couple moving into a new apartment with a foreground view of their neighbors’ sex lives, translates its R rating Rear window concept into an allegory about the envy of the Instagram era, the compulsive FOMO of a generation that everyone has a little better. On a superficial level, it’s all about sex.

“We all know what it’s like to laugh with someone during a comedy or to be on the edge of our seat in a horror movie, but being excited at the same time is a unique experience,” Mohan says. .

Basic Instinct was a smash hit when it was first released in 1992.

With its sinuous plot, heightened tone and frank focus on sex, voyeurs evokes the classic “erotic thriller”, a genre that peaked in the late 80s and early 90s with hits like Fatal attraction (1987) and Primary instinct (1992) but has inexplicably been in the wild for over two decades.

You surely remember those films: pleasantly country dishes like Poisonous sumac (1992) and The crowd (1993), which starred Drew Barrymore and Alicia Silverstone as teenage seductresses; Where Body heat (1981) and A body of evidence (1993), which featured more William Hurt and Willem Dafoe than you probably ever wanted to see.

At the pinnacle of the genre, you would have found them aired quietly on television in the wee hours of the morning, or on the shelves of Blockbuster Video with fuzzy covers with silhouettes of arms outstretched in ecstasy and long-forgotten credits for people. like “Linda Fiorentino” and “David Caruso”.

Sydney Sweeney of Voyeurs and Judge Smith.

Amazon Prime Video

Sydney Sweeney of Voyeurs and Judge Smith.

While the genre, of course, thrived on titillation, it also had its unique quirks: goofy tales where sex drove both the plot and revealed the character, and themes of exploring sexual politics – like in the work of Adrian Lyne, including Indecent Proposal (1993) – who explored ideas of female desire and male insecurity.

So why has the genre collapsed so dramatically?

“That’s a million dollar question,” Mohan says. “I think the last real erotic thriller was Unfaithful in 2002, which was nominated for an Oscar and made $ 120 million at [global] box office, so it’s actually a complete mystery to me why they ceased to exist.

“All I know is that every time I watch them I really feel like I am healthy junk food. Because they’re so easy to watch, and the good guys sneak into these intricate themes and intricate relationships.

Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone in a 1992 hit Basic Instinct scene.


Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone in a 1992 hit Basic Instinct scene.

With voyeurs, and the telling success of risky Netflix offerings, including 365 days and Gender / Life – even Adrian Lyne is releasing his first new film since Unfaithful next year, with former lovers Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas – the genre looks set for an expected rebirth, amid the heightened risk-taking of streaming wars and a broader societal franchise around discussions about l gender identity.

Mohan says that the age of the “intimacy coordinator” – the post- # MeToo insistence of an on-set advisor who makes sure actors are comfortable during sex scenes – has also made a difference. these films a less loaded proposition. (Hollywood is full of stories of actresses regretting their on-set treatment around sex scenes – earlier this year, for example, Sharon Stone revealed she was “tricked” into appearing without her underpants in Primary instinctthe infamous interrogation scene.)

“I think as a member of the audience in 2021 your ability to enjoy a sex scene depends on knowing that the actors in it really had their say and influence,” said Mohan.

At voyeurs he worked with privacy coordinator Amanda Blumenthal, a pioneer in the field who has worked on TV shows including Euphoria, The case, and The white lotus.

Director Michael Mohan on the set of Les Voyeurs.

Amazon Prime Video

Director Michael Mohan on the set of Les Voyeurs.

“It was great – because, as a director, my biggest fear is that an actor will regret the decisions made during my shoot,” Mohan said. He says that no matter how hard he might work to get it out there is a “power dynamic between a director and an actor, because actors want to make directors happy.”

“An intimacy coordinator takes this power dynamic out of the equation,” he says. “I communicate my vision to the intimacy coordinator and she goes off with each actor individually and can have a private conversation where they talk about ‘Okay, this is the part of my body that I never want. that no one is filming, this is the part of my body where I’m fine if the other actors touch each other, I’m not okay if they touch each other here… ‘- things like that.

“During this time, I worked out the design of the shot with my cinematographer to do the scene in as few takes as possible, and so expectations are set, boundaries are drawn, then the day Amanda is set. make sure everyone has a good breath, “he said. Laughs.

“The reason this movie is so hot is because of the work she’s done to make sure every actor feels respected. Because once they know what those limits are, they can deliver a performance. and they don’t think of all they can and can’t do.

Mohan hopes voyeurs can contribute to the broader resurrection of the genre.

“I just want to see more of these movies – more of these female directed movies, more of these colored people movies. It’s a genre where there’s so much untapped potential, especially with modern themes, ”he says. “I mean, each of those classics can be updated, and that’s what I’m here for.”

* The Voyeurs is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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