Amazon's Erotic Thriller Reboot 'The Voyeurs' Sucks You in Through the Final Twist
The new Amazon Prime movie aims to bring back the erotic thriller with one shocking revelation after the next.
This article contains extensive spoilers for The Voyeurs. If you don't want the final twist ruined, come back after you've seen the movie.
Every couple months, film fans complain online about how sexless movies are today, lacking the chemistry and provocation that the people want. They're craving the overindulgent softcore porn qualities of the erotic thriller, which produced more than a few blockbusters in the '80s and '90s and featured countless horny Michael Douglas performances (Basic Instinct, Disclosure, and Fatal Attraction, to name a few). The genre has since fallen by the wayside, originally fizzling out because the overall quality of the genre decreased (the number of good-bad movies is few and far between), and also because of a reckoning at how women were portrayed in the films. Now, thrillers and mysteries rarely have a hint of sexual appeal. Because of that, and how fun watching erotic thrillers can be, a revival of them updated for the 21st century was inevitable.
The new Amazon original movie The Voyeurs, written and directed by Michael Mohan (creator of Netflix's underrated, short-lived Everything Sucks!), intends to do that. Taking Hitchcockian pointers and the premise of Brian De Palma's Body Double that things are not always as they appear to be, the movie sees a 20-something couple named Pippa (Sydney Sweeney) and Thomas (Justice Smith) move into a loft in Montreal where they discover that they have a great view into a beautiful loft across the street where a young, artist-type couple (Ben Hardy, Natasha Liu Bordizzo) lives and is seemingly always doing it—and Pippa and Thomas can't stop looking.
The tenet about erotic thrillers, though, is that they're a little ludicrous, either because the plot goes in a totally off-the-wall direction, and/or exploitation and misogyny. First, you're turned on by the steamy scenes, and then it's the ridiculous twists that keep you seduced. And that's exactly how it goes for The Voyeurs. Eventually, Pippa and Thomas peeping in on their neighbors turns from unserious voyeurism into an unhealthy obsession. It becomes a savior mission for Pippa when she sees that the man, Seb, is cheating on his partner, Julia, and frequently manipulates women with his power as a photographer.
Seemingly coincidentally, she forms a relationship with Julia, who comes into her optometry office, confides in her, and inspires Pippa to meddle in their relationship. Instead of telling Julia directly, Pippa, to conceal her her identity, sends a document via Bluetooth to print on her neighbors' wireless printer, and the next thing Pippa and Thomas see through the window is Julia murdered.
Once Thomas becomes overwhelmed with how far her obsession's gone and walks out, Seb seduces Pippa when he sees her drinking alone a neighborhood bar and takes her back to his place for an impromptu photoshoot. At the same time, Thomas decides to come home and reconcile with Pippa—which just so happens to be when she's in bed with Seb, and Thomas can see it all on display through their big, crystal clear windows. Since Pippa seems to have forgotten about the possibility of her affair being exposed, she's shocked to not only find Thomas back at their apartment when she comes home the next morning, but to discover that he's hung himself from their ceiling. It's meant to evoke how devastated he was that she betrayed their relationship, but feels subject for suspicion because of how shocking and surprising of a development it is—which is why it all but makes sense when we soon learn that Julia snuck in, poisoned Thomas, and faked the suicide.
In her grief and beguiled by Seb, Pippa goes to his photography show. That's when The Voyeurs drops the binoculars to show what's really going on. The movie makes it clear from the beginning that it's taking cues from other erotic thrillers with its copious sex scenes, mysterious characters, and themes of surveillance and betrayal, so as in De Palma's Body Double, eventually we learn that everything Pippa has been seeing is an illusion. At the art show, Julia is revealed to be, in fact, not dead at all. She joins Seb on stage, and together they announce their latest piece is a commentary on the way modern society has tricked people into thinking they can stalk anybody and obsess over them, or at least the image of them. Pippa, it turns out, has been the focus of the project all along: Her new apartment building is owned by Seb and Julia, and they've been watching and photographing her, just as she's been watching them. Apparently, she and Thomas didn't take a good enough look at the final page of their lease. It was all in there!
That in itself is a big twist, but The Voyeurs isn't done yet. Throughout the film, Sweeney plays Pippa wide-eyed and shy—she's empowered by sex and not afraid to be vocal about what she wants, but her overall naivety lets her be seduced by the situation at hand. At one point, she references a femme fatale when fitting Julia for glasses, saying a certain pair of specks makes her look like one, but she herself doesn't necessarily resemble one from the onset. In this 21st century erotic thriller, the heroine has sexual agency, but a more varied personality than the women from the genre's heyday that were often billed as "crazy," "jealous," or villainous, actually making Sweeney a solid fit for the role given her appearances playing troubled teenagers like on Euphoria. As different as Sweeney's protagonist seems, though, it feels a little too on-the-nose that she's an optometrist who checks people's vision as she hides behind binoculars to creep on her neighbors, but of course this is the setup to make the final twist as batshit as possible.
Once Pippa suspects Julia and Seb faked Thomas' suicide in order to get back at Pippa and for the sake of the narrative of their art show, that's when she goes full femme fatale. Again sending messages via the wireless printer, she tells them that she knows they were involved in Thomas' death and lures them to her office where she pretends she's fearing for her life. Moments before, Pippa gave Seb and Julia a taste of their own toxicity by poisoning a bottle of wine she anonymously sent them—but merely killing them would be too simple. She wants to get them under her operating table where she can fuck, quite literally, with their vision.
In the movie's final moments, a new couple is living in Pippa and Thomas' loft, and they're also quick to notice how easily they can see inside their neighbor's apartment. Julia and Seb won't be able to look back at their tenants any longer, though, now that Pippa has at least partially blinded them. Pippa's spying is a perversion of its own, but in a movie that begs to be as scandalous and goofy as its genre forebears, it's worth laying your eyes on for those final twists.