Is it our imagination, or is the erotic thriller genre making a comeback? In the 1990s, you couldn’t move for erotic thrillers – sleekly shot stories of lust, infidelity and murder, with plenty of intrigue and flesh on display, and sensuous scenes to make the audience hot under the collar. The master of the genre, director Adrian Lyne, set the ball rolling with box office smash Fatal Attraction, and recently caused ripples with the Ben Affleck-sizzler Deep Water.
As well as that, director John McNaughton’s 90s hit WILD THINGS is being given the Blu-ray 4K treatment, released this month by Arrow Video in a lavish edition that celebrates one of the most twisty, turny and downright sexy of all erotic thrillers. Here’s a look at that film and some of its counterpart screen scorchers.
AMERICAN GIGOLO (1980)
Paul Schrader wrote and directed this stylish erotic thriller starring Richard Gere as a male escort who gets accused of murder. Probably too dark and arty to really chime with audiences at the time, it nevertheless laid the way for a genre that was to become big business as the decade progressed.
BODY HEAT (1981)
Dripping with sweat and tension, and with eroticism off the scale, Lawrence Kasdan’s superb homage to 1950s Hollywood noirs sees William Hurt as a lawyer who becomes entangled with the seductive Kathleen Turner, who wants him to kill her husband – and will use her body to convince him. Watch out for an outstanding cameo from Mickey Rourke, who would go on to star in the erotic drama classic 9 1/2, and the sultry Angel Heart.
BODY DOUBLE (1984)
Brian De Palma was an early pioneer of the big budget erotic thriller. Dressed to Kill, from 1980, as its infamous shower scene illustrates, deftly mixed shocks with sexy thrills. Body Double ups the ante, taking Hitchcock’s Rear Window into X-rated territory, with Craig Wasson, as an underemployed actor, witnessing a murder during a stint at house sitting.
FATAL ATTRACTION (1987)
The erotic thriller went mainstream with Adrian Lyne’s 80s classic starring Michael Douglas and Glenn Close. It was nominated for seven Oscars, grossed $320 million, and led to a whole host of straight-to-VHS cash-ins, with titles like Animal Attraction and Fatal Pursuit. It also popularised the term ‘bunny boiler’, and perhaps made workplace flings a little less appealing.
SEA OF LOVE (1989)
Taking its cue from Fatal Attraction (work and sex don’t mix) Al Pacino plays a cop who gets involved with a murder suspect, Ellen Barkin, in Harold Becker’s superior mystery thriller. Smartly scripted, by Richard Price, this is a knockout A-list Hollywood treat that really hots up when the leads get together. Look out for an appearance by Michael Rooker, star of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (the debut film from John McNaughton, director of Wild Things).
BASIC INSTINCT (1992)
Paul Verhoven’s slick thriller, about a writer who might also be a ruthless killer, could be the ultimate erotic thriller – big budget, with lavish settings and fast cars and plenty of explicit sex. Joe Ezterhaus was paid a then record amount for his script, the film made a star out of Sharon Stone (her fearless performance is superb), gave Michael Douglas the opportunity yo boogie in a v-neck, and pulled in over $350million at the box office. The less said about the sequel, however, the better.
THE LAST SEDUCTION (1994)
This film did for Linda Fiorentino what Basic Instinct did for Sharon Stone – turned her into an iconic cinematic femme fatale. Fiorentino is note perfect as a sexy and cunning con-woman in John Dahl’s cult hit noir, that features Bill Pullman and Peter Berg as her hapless victims.
So, what happens when you take record-breaking Basic Instinct screenwriter Joe Ezterhaus, legendary director William Friedkin (The Exorcist), and actress of the moment Linda Fiorentino (red hot off the previous year’s The Last Seduction), not to mention NYPD Blue heartthrob David Caruso – should be a recipe for a surefire box office success, no? Well, it wasn’t… but that’s not to say Jade is as bad as some of the critics suggested, Watched now it’s a thoroughly entertaining ninety-five minutes of raunchy murder mystery.
WILD THINGS (1998)
In John McNaughton’s fantastically entertaining Florida-set noir, Matt Dillon plays a school counsellor accused of assault by wrong-side-of-the tracks loner Neve Campell and rich kid Denise Richards. As a cop investigates, the story unravels, leading to some seriously sexy shenanigans, with double and triple crosses in a screenplay by Stephen Peters that you’re never able to second guess. And to cap it all, Bill Murray plays a seedy lawyer and Kevin Bacon goes full frontal. It’s a hell of a wild time all round!
DEEP WATER (2022)
Adrian Lyne returns to the genre with an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel, starring Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas, about a man who may, or may not, have killed his wife’s lover. This ticks all the erotic thriller boxes – a man driven to impulsive acts by an alluring woman, and, of course, plenty of rude and raunchy scenes! It’s ridiculous and sometimes jaw-droppingly insane – but all the more fun for that.