The erotic thriller used to be a staple of cinema. Not independent or international cinema, either. Mainstream films, starring name actors and actresses. Those movies were rarely high art, but what they did, they sometimes did quite well. Recently, however, that genre has all but vanished from the cinematic landscape. So, it’s actually quite novel that The Voyeurs exists. Attempting to be an honest to goodness erotic thriller is something fairly rare these days. That gives the flick some brownie points, though unfortunately, the final product is a bit too uneven to fully recommend. The highs and the lows never quite mix together in a way that leaves you more than partially satisfied.
The Voyeurs is very much a genre offering, even down to some of its twists. Ample doses of Rear Window mix with the aforementioned erotic thriller elements, and it works sometimes, while feeling clunky at other times. That keeps you from being fully satisfied by the twists and turns. By the end, you wind up appreciating the attempt more than the overall execution.
Young couple Pippa (Sydney Sweeney) and Thomas (Justice Smith) have just moved into their dream apartment and seem quite happy. They’re playful and sexy with each other, but also settling into relationship routines. Unfortunately, something is about to change that in a big way. Shortly after moving in, they notice that they can see right across the way into their neighbors’ apartment. When they first see them, they’re about to have sex. That curiosity will lead to disaster.
The aforementioned neighbors are photographer Seb (Ben Hardy) and his wife (Natasha Liu Bordizzo). When Pippa and Thomas see Seb begin to bed a host of his subjects, they wonder if the wife knows. Then, Pippa decides that maybe she needs to know. However, a chance encounter brings her into their lives. Then, things go awry. To say more would spoil the twists, but they start out dark and then eventually get ridiculous.
Sydney Sweeney gets a leading role here and aces it. She’s compelling, sexy, and deliciously unpredictable. In a film where too many things feel like it’s following a preordained path, nothing about her work here is like that. Sweeney is best in show, by far. In fact, it’s up there with Clementine as her best big screen turn, to date. Her chemistry with Justice Smith is solid, with them displaying an erotic playfulness in early scenes. Smith himself is a bit bland on his own, but paired with Sweeney, he’s solid enough. Natasha Liu Bordizzo and Ben Hardy suffer due to the script letting them down, but they’re hardly bad here. It’s just all about Sweeney.
Filmmaker Michael Mohan definitely wants to be reinvigorating the erotic thriller genre. More originality and less Rear Window would have helped, but Mohan does largely get the beats of this type of flick correct. It’s just that the pacing is poor, the twists are a bit ridiculous, and the climax goes way too over the top, even given what’s come before. The Voyeurs could have used more style to paper over these issues, but Mohan is content to just focus on his cast. Sweeney is up to the challenge, at least.
The Voyeurs has one twist too many to work as a pure erotic thriller, but it’s not an unsuccessful attempt. It simply is too uneven to recommend, but if you’re curious, it likely will hold some appeal. Especially if you like Sweeney, this has a charm to it. Being on Prime Video will make the price right for many, and if you’re curious, you certainly could do worse than this film…