An ‘excruciating’ erotic thriller

She doesn’t seem to have any interests beyond writing pretentiously in her journal (“I am lost and then I am found… I have a sense of symmetry. That somehow I have conquered two sides of a mountain at the same time”) and a bit of light BDSM. By the time we do learn about her past and why she is the way she is, we’re absolutely bored to tears by her.

But we don’t really know anything about William either. He’s barely two-dimensional. His character description in a CliffsNotes for this show would read simply: “Successful surgeon. Likes olives and light BDSM.” It’s hard to feel anything for either him or Anna. 

The bestselling 1990 novella on which this is based – Damage by Josephine Hart, made into a 1992 film of the same name, starring Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche – is narrated by the William Farrow character so there we have access to, at least, his thoughts and feelings in a way that we simply don’t here. 

The eventual ending left me with a lot of questions, none of which was “Will there be a second season?” But if it also fails to get your juices flowing, don’t despair. Although Nicholas Barber has argued on BBC Culture that the 1992 movie Basic Instinct represented both the apogee and the end of the erotic thriller, Obsession is merely the first thrust in a veritable orgy of upcoming productions trying to revive the genre. Among others, we can look forward to Fatal Attraction, which has been repurposed as a TV series and arrives on Paramount Plus at the end of this month, starring Lizzy Caplan and Joshua Jackson. Peacock is remaking the 1996 move Fear (“Fatal Attraction for teens,” the original film’s producer called it), while Apple TV+ has announced Presumed Innocent with Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Negga, adapted from the 1987 Scott Turow novel of the same name, which was previously filmed with Harrison Ford.

It looks as though, after a lengthy recovery period, the erotic thriller has lead in its pencil again. Let’s hope, unlike Obsession, these other new shows are more “Moans softly” than “Exhales sharply”.

★★☆☆☆

Obsession is released on Netflix internationally on 13 April

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