When they were bad, they were very very bad...
That is one thing we can all agree on, and yet it's something that Hollywood can't quite seem to get to grips with. Believe it or not, it's only been 35 years since the sub-genre of "erotic thrillers" was properly created thanks to the one-two punch of Dressed To Kill and Body Heat.
After decades of the erotica part of the movie being merely implied (see: just about every single Hitchcock movie), the 80's decided to forego subtlety and add some explicitness, which did gangbusters at the box office, with both movies making back multiples of their budgets.
What's odd is that despite the obvious success, Hollywood didn't seem in any particular rush to flood the market. It took another one-two punch before movie-makers finally sat up and took notice, and this time it came courtesy of Michael Douglas.
The five year gap between Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct was filled with some erotic thrillers (Sleeping With The Enemy, Sea Of Love, Internal Affairs), but none of them managed to leave a mark in quite the same way, between "bunny boilers" and uncrossing legs, Douglas' double-whammy had Hollywood hungry for me.
Unfortunately what followed was a series of quickies, none of which managed to raise the pulse in the same way: Body Of Evidence, Boxing Helena, Sliver, Color Of Night... all the cinematic equivalents of forgettable one night stands.
It was up to Michael Douglas to right the ship with Disclosure in 1994, which was followed by the under-seen but totally brilliant The Last Seduction, and the rest of the 90's was brimming with cult classics of the sub-genre: Bound, Wild Things, Cruel Intentions, Eyes Wide Shut.
The new millennium tried to classy the whole affair up a little with Unfaithful and In The Cut, neither of which left much of a mark. Brian DePalma - who had previously directed Dressed To Kill and Body Double - returned to the types of movies he made a name for himself with, but nobody seemed particularly interested in Femme Fatale in 2002, a film benefiting hugely from hindsight. Basic Instinct 2 arrived in 2006, and Hollywood's priapism for erotic thrillers flopped away.
Since then, the bed has been pretty much empty. Black Swan was more psychological than erotic, while the lowest-common-denominator likes of The Boy Next Door and Knock Knock were more purposefully bad than, say, naughty bad. And the first person to point towards Fifty Shades Of Grey's massive box office deserves a spanking: that film was neither erotic nor a thriller.
So what happened, Hollywood? It could be that they've always been a little shy around sex. Violence has no problem, but a little bit of nudity and movie-makers seem to blush themselves into a corner. That's probably why so many of Hollywood's erotic thrillers are directed by non-Americans in the first place. You just have to look abroad to the French language Stranger By The Lake or The Blue Room - both released in 2014 and both very, very good - to see that Europe still has a soft spot for these films.
There's also the fact that making a legitimately good one is kinda hard. Basic Instinct came from the same writer-director team that then followed it up with Showgirls, the dictionary definition of lightning not striking twice, even though the writer was paid a shocking $3.7 million for his script to the latter.
Maybe it's the fact that the freely available pornography on the internet has completely deterred the need for viewers to "get their jollys" to attractive, famous people simulating the act? Possibly, but doubtful, as porn has been around in alternative forms even back when erotic thrillers were enjoying their heyday.
More than likely, it's simply down to timing, and fashion. Someone needs to make one good erotic thriller in Hollywood again, and suddenly celebrities getting down and dirty will be in vogue again. So have at it, movie-makers, your audience is willing, able and growing impatient...