‘We Kill For Love’: New Documentary Unearths The Lost World Of The Erotic Thriller [Overlook Film Festival 2023 Review]

Red Shoe Diaries - "How I Met My Husband" - Courtesy of Showtime

Anthony Penta’s documentary We Kill For Love spelunks deep into the violent and sexually charged erotic thrillers that once thrived on video store shelves from the late 1980s into the early 2000s. And clocking in at nearly three hours in girthy length, this unmissable foray into Los Angeles porno mansions and softcore pageantry can officially be named the pinnacle point of reference for the lost landscape of this sexy subgenre. From mainstream touchstones like Fatal Attraction to lost titles like Night Eyes 4: Fatal Passion, Penta’s six-year deep dive into the archives of blue movies with an attitude is as fascinating as it is informative.

So, what’s the difference between a softcore porno and an erotic thriller? Penta takes pains to spell it out, as the answer is ultimately a little bit complex. From my perspective, that line can be distilled into art. While many erotic thrillers produced during the height of their popularity are low-budget romps into sex and violence, so many of these titles were figuratively—and quite literally—made with love.

One of my favorite segments of this documentary is when it undresses the long-running Showtime and Playboy Entertainment series Red Shoe Diaries. While many of my peers may remember secretly watching this breathy show with the volume down so our parents wouldn’t clock its instantly recognizable theme song, at a closer glance, this project was a prime example of how an erotic title could be produced carefully and artfully. We Kill For Love takes tender care in its unveiling, just as it does with the countless other films and series it revives. This documentary will help you reframe how we all once digested content like Red Shoe Diaries, shearing them of their shame and guilt and instead laying a keen gaze onto the human artists behind it all.

Another highlight from Penta’s archives is the Night Eyes franchise, a series of erotic thrillers written, produced, and starring Hollywood heavyweight Andrew Stevens. The story concerns the owner of a small security company (Stevens) who is hired by a rock star to install secret surveillance cameras in his home in order to capture his cheating wife (Tanya Roberts) in the act. Night Eyes encapsulates the voyeuristic qualities of the erotic thriller to its core: video, sex, and consequence. The first film in the series does an excellent job of summarizing the genre and would spawn four pictures in total.

The most successful quality of We Kill For Love is the documentary’s agile ability to help us understand the context of what audiences once craved from erotic thrillers. To help with this, the alternative endings to Fatal Attraction are threaded out with disturbing detail. Alex Forrest, as played by Glenn Close, must pay the ultimate price by the end of the film, and more specifically, she must do so by the hands of the innocent mother she so terribly wronged. The morality of the erotic thriller is one of its most confounding contradictions. And Penta does a superb job presenting the psychology behind it. After all, if all audiences wanted from these films was the sex, they’d just rent pornography. Instead, they craved deeper voyeurism beyond the bedroom and into the minds of these misbehaved and attractive characters. They wanted them punished, tied up, and in many cases, murdered.

We Kill For Love will give you the details on why the erotic thriller became lost to the sands of time, so I won’t unpack it here. But even more importantly, the doc paints a humanizing portrait of the talent both in front of and behind the cameras of this forgotten art form. Through their night eyes, we are finally able to understand the importance of these sexy, silly stories and the permanent spank mark they’ve left on American cinema.

Michael Reed in ‘We Kill for Love’ – Courtesy of Yellow Veil Pictures

We Kill For Love had its World Premiere at The Overlook Film Festival on Saturday, April 1, 2023.

  • We Kill For Love


‘We Kill For Love’ is an unmissable foray into erotic thrillers, spotlighting the many films of the lost subgenre, which were figuratively—and literally—made with love.



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