Coming in the midst of the body-count craze, The Seduction is neither violent enough to be considered a Slasher nor as emotionally involving to be considered a 'thriller,' the more respectable cousin of the genre. An uneven example of a psychological horror film that doesn't know precisely what it wants to be, this long out-of-print 1982 feast of scandalized bare flesh and limpid scares is more remarkable for its longevity than its ability to frighten. A hybrid of Soap Opera dramatics and exploitation, this attempt to cash in on -- and perhaps do something new with -- the 'psycho' film is notable as a unique contribution to the field if not a particularly successful one. What this David Schmoeller directed programmer lacks in tension or fright it attempts to make up for in generous coverage of its nude starlet. Lacking the inspired suspense or aesthetic invention evident in the same director's Tourist Trap, The Seduction attempts to distinguish itself from other exploitative films of its ilk by emphasizing dramatic dialogue between its characters and by focusing more squarely on the resistance of its heroine. Unfortunately, this strategy alienates those fans who would have embraced the film if it had adhered more closely to established genre conventions of violence and style, while also proving unable to appeal to the mainstream. Anchor Bay presents this maligned dark drama (produced by Irwin Yablans of Halloween and Hell Night fame) in a special edition, lending technical polish (if not dramatic verve) to a movie that somehow makes the scandalous concept of a woman seducing her stalker rather tame.

Emotionally disturbed voyeur Derek (Andrew Stevens) stalks attractive LA TV anchorwoman Jamie Douglas (Morgan Fairchild) in this oddly 'polite' orgy of skin, sin, and designer hair. In a plot equal parts television prime time mystery, crime serial, and softcore erotica, The Seduction features the cat-and-mouse game between Andrew and Morgan's independent character, who must become that which she detests to defeat her tormenter. More disturbing, and certainly more controversial, she must use her physical looks -- her body -- as a tool, which can be seen as either a wallop of misogyny (woman as fetishistic object) or as a mode of empowerment. If not inclined to take this dual between sex crazed 'psycho' and lust kitten with such seriousness, it can also be enjoyed as simplistic if sensationalistic fluff. Minimally stronger than the average fare on Lifetime, the film exhibits similar timidity. As the voyeur and often naked Fairchild (one of the film's redeemable qualities) perform their ballet of stalk-and-scrabble, this slow paced, at times tedious drama spirals into its expected showdown between beauty and beast.

Wishing to lend additional polish (and perhaps some dramatic respect) to a genre which was even then under attack by rabid conservatives, women's groups, and self-promoting critics (2 thumbs down anybody?), Schmoller and Yablins appeared to have great plans with this film. Unfortunately neither the script nor production lived up to the exploitative potential of the story's basic idea. It is rather ironic that two of the gentlemen responsible for establishing conventions of the Slasher film produced such a banal story here. A lack of clear aesthetic goals or consistent style harm the film considerably, as does the director's inability to honor the promise of violence or high-tension thrills that the film promises. Marketing and crafting the film to be an innovative expansion of the genre, The Seduction forgets/bypasses the established conventions, thematic depths, and aesthetic rules inherent in the form. While the desire to lend greater characterization and intelligence to an already stagnant format was admirable, forgetting the necessity to entertain was not. While it is obvious that Schmoller sought to inject greater depths of character and realism into the Slasher format, neither the performances or the plot are strong enough to truly arouse our interest. And they certainly are no substitute for the fetishistic violence, sexual perversion, or taut suspense that usually categorizes the genre. Still, there are some elements of the film worth studying, such as its attempt to replace graphic violence and other gimmickry with a focus on the relationship between victim and victimizer, suggesting in the role reversals between woman and man a rather brave assertion that women and men both use sexual enticement as a means of power. While this element of the plot, emphasizing a woman's decision to use her sexuality to arouse and dominate her male attacker, bothers some critics to this day, inviting cries of indignant mortification from those who see political struggle in every element of a story, this is one of the few truly original themes of the film. Decades before Sharon Stone bared her beaver in Basic Instinct or Glen Close got happy with a rabbit in Fatal Attraction, and long before 'erotic thriller' become a clich´┐Ż catchword, The Seduction was already merging eroticism and exploitation. Toruble is, once again, there is too little too late. The major problem was (and remains) that the violence wasn't intense enough, nor the sex plentiful enough, to satisfy fans of the genre with which it couldn't help but be placed alongside. The result? A curiosity more notable for its experimental approach towards a convention of the genre than as an exciting or frightening story.

Re-mastered with typical care by home video champions Anchor Bay, The Seduction is given respectful treatment, presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Looking great, the colors are bright and the skin tone believable, free from any noticeable grain or blemishes. Audio is featured in Dolby Digital, and is distortion free, making for an easy listen.

The extras for this odd, emotionally cold movie are often more entertaining than the film itself. An audio commentary reunites principle members of cast and crew, most notably writer/director David (TOURIST TRAP) Schmoeller and producers Bruce Cohn Curtis and Irwin Yablans. Among other things in this lively track we learn that the director's inspiration for the film came from life, the cameraman's affiliation with Porn, and both the aesthetic goals/pitfalls they endured during the shoot. Respectful nods to the departed editor are also included, as is the surprisingly effective Hell Night. Framing for us a more thorough context with which to evaluate the film, the most surprising moments in this discussion come when Schmoeller and Yablans spar. For the most part, the fellows all get along well together, and the track is as enthusiastic as it is a bit saddening, for clearly these gentlemen had good intentions, and wished to create something far better. Next up is "Remembering the Seduction," a reunion panel discussion wherein Schmoeller, Yablans, Curtis, Kevin Brophy Colleen Camp and others discuss the film's inspirations, origins, and result. Everything from the actual shoot to working conditions are covered, and the personalities remembering their stints are accompanied by stills, moments from the set, etc. While Morgan Fairchild is missing from the track, her absence is of no great concern. Next we have Schmoeller and Curtis alongside Detective Martha Defoe in "The Seduction and the Law," a nifty segment where the former discusses profiling, the stalker mindset, and various methods of catching them. Following this is a segment featuring Charles Newirth (the location manager), who recalls the trials of working on the film, how he was chosen, and the initial thrill he experienced. Theatrical trailers for other AB product round out the package of this unique if ultimately un-involving experiment in psychological terror.

Review by William P. Simmons

Released by Anchor Bay USA
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review