The Voyeurs

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Sydney Sweeney and Justice Smith in The Voyeurs.
Sydney Sweeney and Justice Smith in The Voyeurs.
Photo: Amazon Content Services


The Voyeurs


Amazon Prime Video


3/5 Stars


A young couple find themselves becoming interested in the sex life of their neighbours across the street. What starts as innocent curiosity turns into an unhealthy obsession after they discover that one neighbour is cheating. Temptation and desire cause their lives to become tangled together, leading to deadly consequences.


Curiosity killed the cat, the popular first part of a wise quote often touted by the elders when the youth start to question the world around them just a little too much. This theme is a foundational concept of voyeuristic thrillers, where just the act of looking can lead one down very self-destructive paths. Voyeurs, however, aren't just people who are a little too interested in the going ons of their neighbours. It's a term very sexual in nature, and the Peeping Toms derive pleasure from their unknown invasion of privacy. Understand that premise, and you'll have a good grasp of the disquieting themes of Amazon's The Voyeurs.

It starts off simple enough - a young couple moves into a new apartment and realises they can see right into another apartment across the street, where a sexually promiscuous photographer and his wife live. While it's harmless fun at first, their obsession soon spirals into dangerous territory.

The most striking feature of this film is its cinematography, already starting with an eerily poetic montage of eyes, moving into short close-ups obsessed with the physicality of its characters, building sexual drama with each sequence. Paired with incredible lighting and maybe leaning a little too hard into its metaphors, you would have easily been fooled into thinking this is more an art film than a cheap streaming movie, somewhat at odds with its more late Saturday-night soft-core content.

One scene especially stood out, when the lead character - played by Sydney Sweeney (White Lotus, The Handmaid's Tale) - is giving an eye exam to the spied-on wife, and the whole scene just left you electrically charged with superb editing. At first, I thought it was a bit on the nose to make the lead an optometrist, but the filmmaker uses it quite effectively in the plot, where every writing decision is very deliberate and thought out. Even the abundance of sex isn't gratuitous and serves an important purpose in transforming the innocuous snooping into dangerous voyeurism.

That being said, the director/writer Michael Mohan seemed to be at odds with himself, stuck between creating a sublimely visual art piece and a generic erotic thriller for the Amazon machine that will pull in audiences with sex. He was like a cook experimenting with ingredients, and his hand slipped when it came to the seasoning. There were just one too many twists in the story that already kept you guessing most of the time, and if he had had a steadier hand, he would have seen that the film already said what it needed to say.

As for the cast, they are an attractive group of people, and they know how to use this for maximum impact. Not that any other man with abs or woman with doe eyes couldn't have easily played these roles, but you had enough meat to satiate the performances between Sweeney, Ben Hardy and Natasha Liu Bordizzo. I just could not understand what Justice Smith was doing, though, especially with his voice. I've seen him in enough stuff to know what he sounds like, and here he suddenly drops his voice to Batman levels like an angry teddy bear, randomly switching to his normal voice halfway through. Maybe he was trying to do a Canadian accent (the film was set in Montreal), but boy, does it break the suspension of disbelief if you're familiar with his work. His character was also the least fleshed out, his actions never making much sense as we never get a chance to really get under his skin.

Despite his and the film's identity crisis, The Voyeurs was a good watch, reeling you in with its unpredictability and visual work, even self-aware at times about some of its more ridiculous elements. It has a haunting subtext about the act of peeking into other people's lives, the value we place on privacy, and that looking isn't as innocent as you convince yourself it is. In this case, curiosity slaughtered the cat, and no amount of satisfaction can bring it back to the way it was.


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