Male directors, and their limited understanding of female sexuality, have been the ones to codify our expectations of contemporary erotic thrillers. With 1987's Fatal Attraction and 1992's Basic Instinct, directors Adrian Lyne and Paul Verhoeven established many of the tropes we tend to associate with the genre: A woman -- often young, white, and skinny -- driven by her appetite for sex, violence, or both, becomes a source of desire, confusion, and ultimately torment for the film's traditionally masculine hero.
Erotic thrillers tend to function as fearful reactions to the cultural aversion of expressive female sexuality, to the point of overrepresentation within these narratives. The sheer amount of films about dangerous, sex-crazed women has led to satirical horror movies, such as Ginger Snaps, Jennifer's Body, and Teeth (the latter two of which were poorly reviewed at their time of release), that actively mock male fear of sexually aggressive women. These films were made with an acute awareness that, in real life, men hold the power, even if they like to pretend they don't, and present a world where women actually can weaponize their bodies. These narratives are often cathartic; in real life, male desire (and the violence that may occur if it isn't satiated) is much more terrifying.
In the twilight of the erotic thriller, Jane Campion made a film that grappled with that threat. In the Cut, based on the 1995 novel of the same name by Susanna Moore, is a dark fable about the risks women take trying to navigate sex and relationships with men's latent darkness just out of frame. Throughout the film, protagonist Frannie (Meg Ryan) is always being watched, often by men she actually knows. As she and her half-sister, Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh), walk the streets of New York, a sense of unease hangs in the air, heightened by Dion Beebe's cinematography that captures the dreariness, chaos, and unpredictability of the city. The frame is always busy with trash and graffiti, and burdened with shadows, which loom larger as Frannie progresses further on her sexual journey.