If you grew up in the eighties or nineties with cable television, there was always a few occasions where you’d be cruising through the channels looking for something to watch. And there was always a chance you’d happen upon channels like Showtime, Cinemax, or HBO and inevitably stumble on to an erotic thriller. These glossy movies were made cheap, and fast, and almost always featured a hard boiled male protagonist as well as an absolutely sexy woman, and always featured softcore sex. From the late eighties to the end of the nineties, the erotic thriller was a popular facet of late night television and video store shelves.
“We Kill for Love” goes in search of the forgotten world of the direct-to-video erotic thriller, an American film genre that once dominated late night cable television and the shelves of neighborhood video stores. Balancing film art with scholarship, it pulls back the curtain to reveal the heart and soul of a forgotten and often maligned film movement. It’s surprising to me that no one has really thought of exploring the rise and fall of the erotic thriller until now. They were always so popular on cable television when I was a kid. They were always deadly serious, despite being very silly, and were always about deceit, and sex, and seduction, and murder. Despite being such a niche topic, “We Kill for Love” really is a wonderful chronicle of the birth and death of the sub-genre.
Director (and narrator) Anthony Penta really leaves no stone unturned, focusing on the root of the erotic thriller, the birth of the erotic thriller in the late eighties, the sheer popularity of the erotic thriller thanks to the advents of cable and VHS, and the way Hollywood tried to claim ownership of the concept. Penta digs deep taking us behind the camera to talk to the various filmmakers and gorgeous actresses that starred in so many of these movies. They’re often very candid and fond of their work within these parameters and how the studios often demanded a lot from movies with such little budgets. There’s a lot of discussion with filmmakers like Jim Wynorski and Fred Olen Ray, as well as actresses like Ashley Irwin, Kira Reed, and Tane McClure, respectively.
There is also great respect paid to the pioneers of the sub-genre like the late great Julie Strain, Shannon Tweed, and (my personal favorite) Gabriella Hall. Penta even explores the work of Zalman King who turned the erotic thriller in to a platform for the popular cable series “Redshoe Diaries.” Penta also devotes respectable time delving in to the themes of the sub-genre, discussing sexual politics, the power struggle between the sexes, the concept of the femme fatale, and the familiar beats that each film possess.
Penta even ponders on how some films are given different names in European and foreign markets, which often contributed to so many movies being difficult to track down. “We Kill For Love” is a creative, exhaustive and in depth chronicle of a shockingly fascinating facet of the film world. I emphatically recommend it for the respective movie buff that always spent their nights “accidentally” wandering in to the premium cable movie channels as a kid.
There will be a special screening at LA’s legendary Vidiots on August 31st; will be Available On demand on September 1st.