Synopsis – Pippa and Thomas move into their dream apartment, they notice that their windows look directly into the apartment opposite – inviting them to witness the volatile relationship of the attractive couple across the street. But when they attempt to anonymously intercede in their lives, they unwittingly set in motion a chain of events that will lead to disaster.
My Take – Bolstered by the massive success of Fatal Attraction (1987), erotic thrillers emerged as a distinct sub-genre that rose rather exponentially well in the 90s, with films like Basic Instinct (1992), Indecent Proposal (1993), Disclosure (1994), Wild Things (1998) and Cruel Intentions (1999) making further case for the genre. Though most these films were rather simpleminded, they found acceptance as they were the kind of thrillers that made you feel guilty for enjoying it and mad that there were parts of it that objectively worked.
But with studios pushing bars with the belief that the watching professionally good-looking people engaged in acts of intimacy is more important than narrative utility, the once popular and lucrative genre quickly declined in appeal and commercial value in the early 2000s.
However, with his feature debut, director Michael Mohan aims to revisit that certain kind of lurid, twisty entertainment that’s been missing for so long. While the basic premise initially suggests it to be a trashy spin on Rear Window (1954), director Mohan isn’t shy about wearing his influences on his sleeve, and presents his film as an homage rather than a cheap form of mimicry. Resulting in a film that is surprisingly enthralling, backed by a lot of heat, with some good surprises, especially stacked up near the end.
Like any great erotic thriller it wraps you in its mystery and danger, and keeps you in until the end credits roll. Sure, the film fumbles in the final act and perhaps becomes a bit too ridiculous, but those who express their disappointment in the sanitation of modern thrillers will find some great appeal here, as the film succeeds in capturing that sensation of how ridiculous films once were.
The story follows Pippa (Sydney Sweeney), an optometrist, who along with her musician boyfriend Thomas (Justice Smith) moves into a swanky new downtown Montreal loft. And as they begin to settle in, they realize that they can see right into their neighbors’ apartment across the street, Seb (Ben Hardy) and Julia (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), and despite initial reluctance they watch the couple have passionate sex.
But once they witness Seb, a professional fashion photographer, continuously act inappropriately with the various models he brings to his apartment during the day, Pippa feels like she needs to get involved and tell Julia about her husband’s infidelities, against Thomas’s increasing unease with the situation. Hereby leading to several unwanted consequences in which Pippa gets swept up by her psycho-sexual spiral into forbidden desire.
Director Michael Mohan, who directed Sydney Sweeney in the Netflix series ‘Everything Sucks!’ shows a strong command of humorous and thriller elements, interweaving them to the effect that the film opens with the tone of a silly rom-com before sinking its teeth into something deeper.
The story as a whole isn’t entirely original, and the trajectory isn’t all that shocking, but the film does provide some depth by offer interesting discussions about Pippa and Thomas’ actions and how they walk the line between innocent fun and obsession. It’s easy for them to justify their actions because Seb and Julia leave their windows wide open to the world, but is it ever okay to immerse yourself in someone else’s life uninvited?
Sure, some of its plot turns make little sense in ways that can’t be discussed sans spoilers, but it’s fun and engaging enough and makes enough sense to by-and-large work. Most importantly, the whole thing positively drips with sexually hungry energy that’s so entwined with the story that it’s easy to be taken for a ride for anyone with a beating pulse.
The biggest issue with the film is honestly the final few moments. While the big reveal that happens towards the middle of the film is very effective, the final act gets pompous, bungled, and overdone to the point that it’s no better than a Lifetime thriller with higher aspirations. The last act a lesson in overdone storytelling and a stunning lack of self-awareness. It was unneeded and would have served the story well of exploring themes of real, lovely, imperfect relationships versus ones you watch for entertainment.
Performance wise, Sydney Sweeney, who made an impact in the HBO series ‘Euphoria’ and ‘The White Lotus,’ shines the brightest. Penetrating a sheen of innocence that harbors darker inclinations, she turns in a captivating performance that anchors the film. Sadly, Justice Smith misses the mark, as his character has virtually no arc or depth to speak of, and the aforementioned lack of chemistry with Sweeney makes for an unenviable role that under serves the otherwise talented actor.
However, Natasha Liu Bordizzo and Ben Hardy are quite excellent and do most of the dramatic heavy lifting, which is ironic considering the characters do much other than be watched in silence until the film’s halfway mark. On the whole, ‘The Voyeurs’ is a fun and sexy erotic thriller throwback that is imperfect yet above your average thriller.
Directed – Michael Mohan
Rated – R
Run Time – 120 minutes