Synopsis: A documentary that searches for 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.
Stars: Andrew Stevens, Monique Parent, Amy Lindsay, Linda Ruth Williams, Kira Reed Lorsch, Jim Wynorski, Fred Olen Ray
Director: Anthony Penta
Running Length: 163 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: I’m a fan of the special features on home video releases, and while a behind-the-scenes featurette is fine and dandy, the making-of documentary gets me the most excited. Even better is when the documentary is retrospective many years after the fact. How a movie came together is fascinating, especially when you see it through the eyes of the filmmakers, stars who have had time to reflect, and fans who have carved out a place in their hearts for it over time. That’s why I love seeing the recent trend of “super-sized” documentaries that chronicle a specific genre. Among others, we’ve already had a massively impressive look at horror films throughout the ‘80s, which reminds me that you need to check out the In Search of Darkness films, I beg you.
Now comes, somewhat surprisingly to me, We Kill for Love, a look into the direct-to-video erotic thriller films that filled out the shelves (usually the top ones) in video stores throughout the 1990s during the true boom of VHS and early DVD market. I didn’t need much convincing to check this one out, but even I was gobsmacked at the 163-minute run time of this one, considering many of the films it covered barely cracked the 90-minute mark. I half expected this to be an excuse to show a lot of T & A in between interviews with starlets from the later less reputable skin flicks, but Andrew Penta’s thoughtfully compiled feature is a clear love letter to the forgotten genre.
Forgetting a silly framing device featuring an Archivist that almost threw off the entire balance of the doc, Penta quickly pivots out of this more cerebral dissection of the genre in favor of on-camera interviews with historians, writers, directors, and actors with insight into the growth of the business. The essential films of the era are discussed, both the Hollywood features (Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct, 9 ½ Weeks) and their low-budget counterparts (Night Eyes, Eden, In the Heat of Passion, Red Shoe Diaries) as well as the major players of the time (Zalman King, Andrew Stevens, Fred Olen Ray, Monique Parent).
Penta rarely delves into the darker side of the era, with AIDS and hard drug use primarily avoided, but then again, the entire point of these films was to sell a fantasy to consumers. Following that logic, keeping things on one level makes sense, especially with an already lengthy run time that may be testing the patience of squirmy viewers. I could have watched another hour of interviews because Penta’s subjects are fascinating, and their stories are rich with insider knowledge.
There will never be another time for the home video market like the one documented in We Kill for Love. As someone who worked in a video store while these movies came out, I can vouch for their incredible popularity among all ages, races, and creeds. Now, with so many options to watch at the touch of a button and products being put out quickly, there is less focus on the type of erotic projects discussed in Penta’s doc. It’s not meant to be kept in amber (it’s too steamy!), but the direct-to-video erotic thriller is captured fondly in this sharp documentary.