Who says the erotic thriller is dead? Maybe it's just been lying in wait.
The heyday of the genre was the late '80s and early '90s, when erotic-thriller mainstays like actor Michael Douglas, screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, and directors Brian De Palma and Adrian Lyne were enjoying their career peaks. Between 1987's "Fatal Attraction" and 1992's "Basic Instinct," there seemed to be no end of movies about detectives sleeping with murder suspects or soccer dads and moms having torrid affairs with dangerous strangers. Maybe it was subconscious anxiety about AIDS, or maybe it was a loosening of the ratings board's usual qualms about sex and violence, or maybe it's just when premium cable started to saturate America's households. (Indeed, the erotic thriller still persists as a late-night staple on Skinemax Cinemax.) Whatever the reason, the genre's moment was short-lived.
Maybe it'll come back with the release this week of "The Boy Next Door," directed by pulp auteur Rob Cohen and starring Jennifer Lopez as a high school teacher who has a steamy affair with a young neighbor (Ryan Guzman) who becomes dangerously obsessed with her. Speaking of dangerous obsessions, "Fifty Shades of Grey" is opening in a couple weeks, just in time for Valentine's Day. Of course, two movies won't bring back the genre all by themselves, but Hollywood success does breed imitators. Or at least these new releases may whet your appetite for some of the overheated, heavy-breathing classics of the genre, as listed below. They may not be the greatest movies ever made, but sometimes they scratch that itch. For shameless entertainment, I mean.