The Voyeurs, 2021.
Written and Directed by Michael Mohan.
Starring Sydney Sweeney, Justice Smith, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Ben Hardy, Katharine King, Madeline Harvey, Emily Shelton, Daniel Grogan, Cait Alexander, Caitlyn Sponheimer, Blessing Adedijo, and Alexandra Petrachuk.
Pippa and Thomas move into their dream apartment, they notice that their windows look directly into the apartment opposite, this will set in motion a chain of events that will lead to disaster.
The concept of The Voyeurs (and voyeurism, in general) offers the opportunity for writer and director Michael Mohan to explore the mental unhealthiness of characters digging too deep into the lives of others at the expense of prioritizing what’s truly important. For the first 30 minutes or so, that does seem to be the point of the movie, as we watch happy couple Pippa and Thomas (Sydney Sweeney and Justice Smith, respectively) who have just moved into a Downtown Montréal apartment complex together, get a little too comfortable enjoying the peep show the couple living directly across from them frequently put on. Ben Hardy and Natasha Liu Bordizzo are Sebastian and Julia; he’s a seemingly professional photographer of models (typically convincing them to pose nude by using his own body as a means of manipulation alongside his smoldering demeanor), and she runs an art gallery that sees her often traveling for work. Hence, Sebastian is given plenty of room to cheat on his wife.
The spying affects Pippa and Thomas differently; at first, it’s just fun and games to the latter while the former feels like they are engaging in morally wrong behavior. Nevertheless, it becomes a question of if Sebastian and Julia are intentionally leaving everything open to see. It could all be a mistake since the sexual activity also includes cheating with random models that likely aren’t consenting to exhibitionism. Whatever the case may be, Pippa is getting turned on by Sebastian, whether it be his chiseled body or his sex moves. It’s also likely that this wouldn’t happen if Thomas weren’t dead asleep after dressing herself up for a fun night, which would leave her sexually frustrated. Even when they are having sex, Pippa visibly wishes Thomas would fuck with that same vigor, speed, and force (there’s a pretty titillating sequence of the couples having sex, with Pippa finding a vicarious pleasure focused on Sebastian staring in that direction while Thomas takes her from behind).
Erotic dramas like The Voyeurs rarely get made anymore (it’s refreshing watching four beautiful specimens committed to such physically intimate performances, both the male and female gaze). Sure, there was the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy and the occasional terrible BDSM movie released on Netflix, but none of those are necessarily mature, have anything noteworthy to say, or come across like the filmmakers even understand BDSM. In the case of 50 Shades of Grey, all the nudity in the world couldn’t save those sex scenes (laced with cringe pop songs) from lacking in chemistry and coming off hilariously embarrassing for everyone involved.
As soon as the roles start to reverse (Pippa increasingly becomes invested in the lives of these strangers), The Voyeurs devolves into idiotic camp filled with all characters either doing creepy things or culpable to disturbing actions in some way. Case in point, while having dinner with friends and reminiscing on old college stories, it comes out that Thomas once rigged a device to eavesdrop on a popular classmate to see if she secretly had a crush on one of the boys. Five minutes later, they purchase costumes for a Halloween party to plant a mirror in the couple’s bedroom that they can use from their apartment in conjunction with a laser pointer and some other objects to listen in on their conversations. This is also where we learn that the marriage between Sebastian and Julia is nowhere near as happy as it seems. Also, that’s nothing compared to how extreme the questionable behavior gets.
Pippa just so happens to work as an optometrist, and as fate would have it, Julia has lousy eyesight and shows up for an appointment. As they begin to bond, Pippa naturally develops guilt over knowing that Julia is being cheated on, wrestling with whether to spill the beans or mind her own business, as Thomas advises. That dialogue between Pippa and Thomas is probably the last moment of nuance and thought put into The Voyeurs. There’s also a half-baked metaphor going on with eyes (complete with lyrics to a song making an obvious point even more obvious) that never materialize into anything intriguing.
On the one hand, it’s always apparent where The Voyeurs eventually goes narratively as Pippa’s obsession heightens. That much is made evident when any semblance of studying sex and prying shifts into thriller territory (think Rear Window temporarily but with characters fucking). So rather than say anything about sex or voyeurism, or relationships, those elements only function as a stepping stone to something more mysterious and formulaic. In some respects, there’s nothing wrong with that as psychosexual thrillers are also a relic of the past that I also wouldn’t mind seeing returning more, rather than just sexual drama. The issue is that The Voyeurs then reveals several twists, all of which are flat-out absurd and insultingly stupid, reducing the movie to something as dumb as any other recent movie involving kinks. It’s also hard to deny the element of entertaining horny trash, but the ludicrous final 30 minutes (you can feel the performances getting worse with each new swerve) whiff hard.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com