[Documentary Review] WE KILL FOR LOVE

When I was growing up in the late 80s and 90s, it was a magical time for “things children really shouldn’t watch,” but were discovered regardless. It was a golden era of sexy and strange adult animation like Æon Flux, sexy and strange sci=fi shows like “Lexx,” and the pinnacle of discovery, erotic thrillers (which played on those channels only our best friend’s dad had). WE KILL FOR LOVE dives into the last genre, providing a lengthy look into the 90s world of guns, money, sex and murder.

And it’s strange, to say the least, to look at that reflection of sexuality and gender now as an adult. Being non-binary and bisexual (yeah, yeah, settle down, it’s not that big of a deal), this was an interesting documentary to watch. I hadn’t realized how much of my sexuality and gender was shaped, or at least discovered by, this very small subgenre of horror/thriller. It was an odd homecoming in a way. While I didn’t recognize most of the movies, I felt like I had seen them at some point. It was familiar. Secretive. Scandalous. Something I should’ve had to sneak out to do.

WE KILL FOR LOVE is thorough and does a great job of explaining the genre, starting with film noir. The femme fatale. The broken and emasculated male protagonist. The nihilistic tale of wanting what will never be yours and the falling for one’s inevitable downfall. How sex and sexuality shape the tension and the drama of each story. The gender swap of the powerful woman and the man who yearns to defeat her but cannot. It goes beyond Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct, using sex as a tool and more often as a weapon.

WE KILL FOR LOVE even dips into the subgenres of this subgenre – supernatural erotic thrillers, stalker erotic thrillers, and the woman unchained and uninhibited by her sex. Several interviews with the writers and stars provide the mindset of the genre and the characters, flawed and beautiful. Dangerous and desperate. WE KILL FOR LOVE also explores familiar tropes like the slow ceiling fan shot, the blonde wig, and the red sports car. Each represents the juxtaposition of male and female.

And aye, there’s the rub for me (pun intended) because I’m both and neither, gender-wise. I realized while watching that I often placed myself in the male roles while watching, yearning for the woman’s attention and acceptance. Both the cis men and myself feeling desperate and emasculated by her beauty and ferocity. When I grew up watching these, I felt uncomfortable seeing myself in the woman and often switched to the male’s perspective. As a queer, I accepted my fate as the male protagonist accepted his: this woman, this desire, will be our downfall.

WE KILL FOR LOVE is a fascinating take on a small but loyal genre, exploring the smoky beginnings, sultry and box-office fame of its middle, and its demise into poor quality pornography in the end. While Lifetime still offers erotic thrillers, the popularity of the genre has cooled over time. Many of the films have not been recovered and will, at some point, probably be buried and forgotten within cinema history.

Director Anthony Penta does a great job of exploring this particular vein in cinema history and keeping it tight together. Herman Beeftink captured the music and soul of the genre, complementing the documentary and never overshadowing it, and the visual effects by Michael Reed and Rogelio Salinas were beautiful and engaging. The only complaint that I have is that the runtime was too long and there was a part when ‘erotic thriller’ meandered into just erotic movies (without the thriller part). That part could have and should have been cut because WE KILL FOR LOVE is almost three hours.

Regardless, WE KILL FOR LOVE is a much-needed look into a small and dying subgenre that impacted a generation, myself included. The documentary is now available On Demand.

J.M. Brannyk
Movie Reviews

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