It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
It was inevitable that the genre of erotic thrillers would be given the "Airplane!" treatment. Movies like "Basic Instinct," "Body Heat," "Sleeping with the Enemy" and "Jagged Edge" offer themselves to parody like a steak to the barbecue. Sometimes, indeed, it's hard to tell the put-ons from the movies with straight faces; I didn't much like the recent thriller "Malice," for example, but some of my correspondents assure me it was all meant as a joke.
Well, maybe they have a point. That process shot of the isolated house on top of the gothic cliff in the lightning storm was probably a signal of some sort, but then again, in parodies the rape and slasher scenes are usually not played straight, and so I read "Malice" as a serious thriller with comic undertones.
"Fatal Instinct" also has undertones, but not very comic ones. It's a strange thing about the parody genre: Some of these movies work ("Airplane!," "Top Secret!) and some don't. And you can't say why, except that sometimes you laugh, and sometimes you don't, and the reasons for that are not arguable.
Maybe, though, it has something to do with the acting. No one would confuse Leslie Nielsen, the star of "Airplane," "Police Squad" and "The Naked Gun" movies, of being a great actor. And yet he has an undeniable gift for making this material funnier than it has any right to be (see him as a motorcycle gang leader in a current auto commercial). Armand Assante, on the other hand, is one of the best movie actors of his generation. But he isn't very funny in "Fatal Instinct." Why not? I dunno. Maybe he plays the role hero too convincingly, which would be a mistake; Nielsen never for a moment seems to be a real cop, and his posturing in the role is funny even before he says anything.