‘Sliver’ Is Mandatory Midnight Movie Viewing for Any ‘Basic Instinct’ Fan SuperNayr

On Friday nights, IndieWire After Dark takes a feature-length beat to honor fringe cinema in the streaming age. 

First, the spoiler-free pitch for one editor’s midnight movie pick — something weird and wonderful from any age of film that deserves our memorializing. 

Then, the spoiler-filled aftermath as experienced by the unwitting editor attacked by this week’s recommendation.

The Pitch: Peering Eyes and Multiple Endings

Sliver really should be mandatory viewing for any “Basic Instinct” fan — or any lover of Sharon Stone noirs, for that matter. Stone reunites with “Basic Instinct” screenwriter Joe Eszterhas for this 1993 erotic thriller that feels more like a Brian De Palma-esque satire on the genre itself. Mixed with the paranoia of surveillance technology, the voyeurism of “Body Double,” and the dual campy performances from Billy Baldwin and Tom Berenger as part of a twisted love triangle, “Sliver” is the ‘90s film you’ve never heard of but will adore. 

"The Manitou"
Gemma Arterton and Ryan Reynolds in "The Voices"

Stone stars as a Hitchockian blonde divorcee who works as a book editor by day and a quasi investigator by night. What could have piqued her interest, you ask? Well, Stone’s Carly Norris has just moved into a new high-rise that seems to be chockfull of WASPy elites. Yet the token old man who lives in the building confuses Carly with the former resident of her apartment – one who mysteriously died — and the overwhelmingly obvious sexual advances of her new neighbors, Zeke (Baldwin) and Jack (Berenger), point to something being afoot in the building. Oh, and Carly also is reminiscent of Zeke’s dead mother, as Jack informs her while trying to argue that Zeke is mentally unwell, just another video game designer who cycles through women (this was before video games were associated with incels, apparently.) A string of murders start to occur, with Carly’s neighbors being offed one by one. It seems that the only building residents who remain are Carly, Zeke, and Jack…Is Carly the killer, or do Jack’s erratic tendencies and standoffish-ness point to a more sinister agenda? 

As Carly becomes entangled with both men, she questions who she can trust, and even if her own urges are darker than just her sexual appetite. 

The original ending was actually swapped out due to poor test audience ratings, but one thing has remained across both iterations: The uncovering of a building surveillance room, and a speech Carly gives that seems to be right out of “Network.” 

“Sliver” has shit ratings and basically swept all nomination categories for the Razzies, but the film has has slowly been rediscovered (hopefully even with the help of this rewatch) in recent years. Some new attention has been in part due to the lore surrounding its production, which Stone has spoken out about recently. Karina Longworth’s “You Must Remember This” podcast on ‘90s erotic thrillers, released in 2023, included “Sliver” as one of the must-watch examples of the genre. 

The real-life twistedness of the making of “Sliver” even seems to make its lore more appealing: Stone famously accused “Basic Instinct” director Paul Verohoven of filming her nude genitals in the infamous leg crossing interrogating scene without her knowledge; the tie of “Sliver” and “Basic Instinct” both being penned by Estzerhas helped cement Stone’s iconic erotic thriller stardom in the decade. By 2024, though, Stone claimed on podcast “The Louis Theroux Podcast” that “Sliver” producer Robert Evans encouraged her to have sexual relations with co-star Baldwin for the sake of their onscreen romance believability. Baldwin meanwhile disputed Stone’s allegations against Evans. Also apparently there’s a NC-17 rated version circulating around, one that involves full frontal male nudity. Paramount released an unrated version on VHS at the time which did not include such scene, but hey, you never know. —SB

The Aftermath: How to Make Midnight a Safe Space for Sex Symbols?

Midnight movies are sexy. Yes, they’re also experimental, violent, offensive, and gross much of the time. But there’s a titillating core that’s inherent to any genre designed to be enjoyed after the sun goes down. From big-boobed final girls to sci-fi femme fatales, fringe cinema has found permanent connective tissue with mainstream movie fare in humanity’s near-universal appreciation of drop-dead gorgeous women. Sharon Stone is that rule and, some occasional moments of lacking tension notwithstanding, what a trashy delightful romp “Sliver” was.

There’s a skin-crawling displeasure to watching men paw at Carly, and hearing Billy Baldwin say “panties” is an instantaneously torturous memory I wish I could give back. (Per Google, MTV awarded Baldwin “Most Desirable Male” that year, and, reader… what?) Still, Stone does solid work here — delivering a complex enough consideration of a woman grappling with the exciting potential of single-hood pot-divorce and the very real dangers of society suddenly clocking that sexual viability and freedom.

Considering the context Sam provided about Stone’s career, it’s perhaps irresponsible to sidestep the reality that male filmmakers’ worst tendencies have shaped erotic thrills for decades. Allegations surrounding archival films will always be incredibly tangled, but this backwards testament to upscale living and sensual stranger danger was in fact directed by a man, written by another, and based on a book author by yet another (Ira Levin). Yet, it is Stone’s face we’ll always remember telling peeping audiences to “GET LOST!” at the end.

As I was mulling over “Sliver” at a bar, a man recommended I pair it as a double feature with James Gunn’s “Slither.” That movie sees a sexy young girl impregnated with thousands of slug-like aliens, her skin bulging too far much for one of those slim-cut looks Stone wears. It made me consider: What extremes women have gone to be in the movies? And how do we push and protect them after midnight? —AF

Those brave enough to join in on the fun can stream “Sliver” on Amazon Prime Video and Paramount+IndieWire After Dark publishes midnight movie recommendations at 11:59 p.m. ET every Friday. Read more of our deranged suggestions…

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