I’m fascinated by disappearing genres and the way entire storytelling patterns can suddenly decline into the void. Unsurprisingly, Hollywood has more than its fair share of dead-end genres, where studios poured money into lucrative niches and then bailed the moment the returns went south. The last few years have seen a cautious resurrection of the romantic comedy, which has gotten a shot in the arm by a series of actors, writers, and directors of color: recently, to name a few, we’ve had Crazy Rich Asians, Set It Up, The Big Sick, Always Be My Maybe, and To All the Boys I Loved Before. The differences are more than cosmetic. A lot of these newer films are, for example, more concerned than their predecessors with culture, milieu, and family–there’s a wider world outside the couple, and a relationship that works in a vacuum might not work when it has to fit into a wider context. The differences are subtle, but they’re enough to revitalize a flagging corner of moviedom.
But no one has, as yet, resurrected the erotic thriller, the steamy intersection of allure and danger; or, rather, the few recent and great entries touching on the genre–Stranger By the Lake, The Handmaiden–haven’t been numerous enough or, sadly, influential enough, to form their own distinct era.
So, if suddenly handed this task, how would you reinvent and revive the erotic thriller?
I know that I would personally like to see an infusion of new perspectives. Most of the classic erotic thrillers feel like they’re primarily out to serve a very specific notion of eroticism, appealing to straight white guys who are mostly pretty vanilla; let’s service the fears and desires of some other corners of society. Welcome different creators reaching out to different audiences, not only in terms of gender and sexual orientation but in terms of sexuality itself. Get more films like Stranger By the Lake that treat anonymous hookups as a standard facet of sexuality rather than the sole source of titillation; get more films like Cam that work with the semi-pro gig economy of modern sex work. Overall, I’d always love to see films that are weirder, messier, and more willing to accept that they’re not going to be for everyone. That’s something we all have to accept about sex anyway.