Deadly Illusions isn’t a bad title for a movie purporting to be an erotic thriller.
But calling something erotic doesn’t make it so.
Over the years, there have been some genuinely erotic thrillers. I’ll list a few here, for reference:
Basic Instinct (1992), Fatal Attraction (1987), Dressed to Kill (1980), American Gigolo (1980), Angel Heart(1987), Wild Things (1998), Sea of Love (1989), Body Heat (1981) and Eyes Wide Shut (1999).
Beside the sizzling sex and heart pounding suspense, what these movies have in common is that they were made quite a while ago. Decades ago, in fact.
It’s hard to name more current erotic thrillers or erotic movies.
Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) certainly wouldn’t make the cut despite all the hype and anticipation generated by the success of the best-selling, badly written novels.
You wonder if the art of the erotic thriller has somehow faded away.
But along comes Deadly Illusions, from writer/director Anna Elizabeth James, starring Kristin Davis, Dermot Mulroney and relative newcomer Greer Grammer.
The promotional materials pitch it as a steamy erotic thriller. It is not.
What it seems to be is a rehashing of the basic plotline of Curtis Hanson’s The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992) starring Rebecca De Mornay as the goody-two-shoes nanny turned homicidal maniac.
When things seem to be too good to be true, they usually are, particularly in movies like this.
It’s the tale of a very successful writer whose publishers are trying to squeeze one more best-seller out of her. Initially, she objects but then reconsiders when she discovers that her husband’s bad business decisions have jeopardized their lavish lifestyle and the future of their two children.
So, write she must. But what to do about the kids while she immerses herself in endless hours of cranking out the new novel, in longhand, struggling with writer’s block and a ton of existential pressure?
The solution is, of course to hire a nanny. But as we all know, it’s hard to hire good help these days.
After a string of disappointing candidates sent from the local agency, "Miss Perfect" arrives one afternoon, dressed in white, riding a white bicycle.
She’s charming. She’s pretty. She is well read and well educated. And we know, we just know, that she is going to turn into a first-rate psychopath. It’s where all these movies go. Let’s face it.
Despite knowing where the plot is headed however there is at least the possibility of some tantalizing entertainment along the way.
It’s why we shell out good money to see movies like this. Let’s be real.
Once again, it’s a pretty good bet that the young woman is going to do her best to steal the writer’s husband right out from under her nose, and that she might take a stab at seducing the writer herself, along the way, just for the sake of being manipulative and maniacal.
As you might guess, that’s pretty much what happens in Deadly Illusions. It’s a twisted tale of deception and betrayal...and smoldering sex. Or at least that’s what you might expect.
Sadly, Deadly Illusions turns out to be one of the most lackluster films in the erotic thriller genre. Instead, it is tedious and tame.
While the great erotic thrillers have at least one memorable scene that burns itself into your brain, permanently, Deadly Illusions is content to just tease the audience with tasteful, toned-down moments that are so remarkably unsexy that they could fall into the category of an after-school special.
There is more hot sex in any of the current network soap operas. And that’s not an exaggeration.
Yes, there are plot twists, butcher knives, scissors and at least one murder.
Yes, there is a shower slashing scene right out of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). Yes, there are some references to the work of the most famous Hitchcock rip-off artist, Brian De Palma.
But we’ve seen it all before. And we’ve seen it done much better.
Any box office success of Deadly Illusions will be based on the fan base of Kristin Davis and Dermot Mulroney and, possibly fans of Greer Grammer who does a nice job of channeling Alicia Silverstone and the Lolita-like characters she played in Nineties movies like The Crush (1993) or The Babysitter (1995).
The resemblance and performance is striking. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
Deadly Illusions isn’t very erotic and it’s not much of a thriller. It’s just a chance to see a couple of stars who haven’t been on the big screen in a while. And that’s not saying much.
Deadly Illusions is available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, Fandango Now, YouTube, Dish Network and through local cable providers now.