VOD film review: The Voyeurs
Matthew Turner | On 14, Sep 2021
Director: Michael Mohan
Cast: Sydney Sweeney, Justice Smith, Ben Hardy, Natasha Liu Bordizzo
Where to watch The Voyeurs online in the UK: Amazon Prime
Back in the 1990s, buoyed by the smash hit success of Basic Instinct, the erotic thriller was such a popular genre in cinemas that Hollywood churned them out on what felt like a weekly basis. Its heyday sadly declined in the 2000s, but there have been a few recent nods to the genre in the streaming era, with throwback thrillers such as Unforgettable, The Intruder, Fatale and Deadly Illusions all taking cues from their 90s predecessors.
Writer-director Michael Mohan’s The Voyeurs is less a throwback than a full-blooded resurrection of the genre. As such, it’s alive to its pleasures, ticking all the required boxes and inventing a few new ones along the way.
Sydney Sweeney (breakout star of The White Lotus) plays Pippa, an optometrist who moves into a flashy new Montreal apartment with jingle composer boyfriend Thomas (Justice Smith). Almost immediately, they’re transfixed by the sexual activities of their exhibitionist neighbours in the opposite apartment: photographer Seb (former EastEnder Ben Hardy) and his model wife, Julia (Natasha Liu Bordizzo). Despite Thomas’ initial misgivings over privacy, the pair quickly become obsessed, with Pippa even using their nightly voyeurism to spice up their own sex life.
When it becomes apparent that Seb is regularly cheating on his wife, Pippa decides to intervene and find a way to tell her, especially after an oblivious Julia randomly shows up at her workplace for an eye appointment and the pair strike up a connection. However, Pippa’s impulsive actions have shocking consequences, leading to an increasingly tense domestic situation between her and Thomas.
Mohan clearly has a lot of affection for the genre and it shows in every frame. More importantly, the central set-up completely delivers on the title – much is made of voyeurism in the erotic thriller genre, but this is the rare film that actually combines it directly with sexual pleasure, in one of the film’s hottest scenes.
Throughout the film, Mohan’s direction is delightfully inventive. He even finds a way to make an eye exam erotic, in a playful scene involving sensual close-ups and electric blue lighting (all that’s missing is the saxophone solo). On top of that, he indulges in some darkly comic editing, in a way that both pays tribute to that famous match-cut in Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou and serves as a cautionary comment on the dangers of looking.
In fact, the film’s editing is exceptional throughout, most notably in an ingeniously framed, quietly devastating montage towards the end of the film. Similarly, although there is plenty of nudity – another genre requirement, at least in the 90s – the sex scenes are cleverly edited so that they’re titillating without being explicit.
Sweeney is superb as Pippa, delivering a complex performance that has her effectively fighting a losing battle with her own desires and then struggling to deal with the ensuing guilt. She also has finely calibrated chemistry with Smith – there’s just enough so that you buy their relationship, but there’s also something missing, so that you believe her actions later on.
On that note, Mohan delivers some satisfying twists and turns while also somehow finding room for an unexpectedly serious and timely message. In short, this is an absolute treat – an inventive, playful, genre-savvy thriller that will get your pulse racing.
The Voyeurs is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.