Wild Things (1998)
Directed by: John McNaughton
Written by: Stephen Peters
Starring: Bill Murray, Carrie Snodgress, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Denise Richards, Kevin Bacon, Matt Dillon, Neve Campbell, Robert Wagner, Theresa Russell
WILD THINGS (1998)
Directed by John McNaughton
Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillon), a handsome guidance councillor at a high school in Blue Bay, Florida, finds himself in hot water when two students, rich girl Kelly Van Ryan and swamp goth Suzie Toller, accuse him of raping them. Hiring the only lawyer in town to have the guts to take on the case against the Van Ryans, one of the richest families in the area, Lombardo attempts to clear his name. However, the case against him is not quite what it seems.
From the director that brought us Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, WILD THINGS is a corrupt, sexy and seedy affair, wrapped in the faux facade of honesty and integrity. Whatever you think is going on, think again, because this is no ordinary crime thriller. This is a film that aims to tease as well as titillate.
The plot of WILD THINGS sees a teenager accuse a teacher of raping her. Accusing someone of rape is a huge, life-changing event with the accused often seen as guilty til proved innocent, so a false accusation made out of spite can be devastating. After student Kelly tells her mother that she’s been raped, we’re given the impression that guidance councillor Sam Lombardo may well have been falsely accused because, from the off-set, we see Kelly Van Ryan, played by Denise Richards, spy every opportunity to flirt with him. On all these occasions, Lombardo puts up a wall and finds every way to put out any flame that Kelly has ignited, including dropping off another student at home when he’s coerced into taking her home from school. However, one particular scene in which Kelly decides to come onto Lombardo, her t-shirt wet and figure hugging after washing his jeep with one of her girl friends on behalf of a school event, we don’t actually see the outcome of their interaction except for a distraught Kelly running from the property. On first instance, it seems like her sexual advances have been rebuffed and she’s ran off to console herself. However, once Kelly makes the accusation, a seed of doubt begins to creep in. Up to this point, Lombardo appears innocent and, even at this stage, I found myself siding with Lombardo until a second alleged victim speaks out and that’s when the film gets you to re-evaluate what you’ve seen until now.
The off-screen experience of not knowing who or what to believe as a viewer is actually a thrilling and keeps you on your toes, attempting to uncover the truth, a bit like police detective Ray Duquette (played by Kevin Bacon who also executively produced the film) who suspects not everything is what it seems. From there-on, WILD THINGS just ups the ante with wilder and wilder plot developments. Hold onto your hat cos WILD THINGS is about to take you for a ride!
WILD THINGS can be described as trashy but in the best way possible. With a star-studded cast line up that includes Matt Dillon, Denise Richards, Neve Campbell, Kevin Bacon, Theresa Russell, Robert Wagner and Bill Murray, WILD THINGS is not short of talent and its these performances that elevate the film yet provide this juxtaposition of a glossy yet sleazy tale. It’s quite refreshing, even now, 24 years later, and looks superb on the Blu-Ray release by Arrow Video which features both the theatrical and unrated edition – the latter of which provides more context to the story over the theatrical release.
The plot and dialogue of WILD THINGS can be cheesy as hell at times, even hilarious, but its main draw, besides the cast, is that it’s highly effective at continually catching you off guard, no matter how absurd the developments may be. Blending softcore erotic scenes with twists and thrills amidst an undercurrent of wickedness, the film manages to lure you into its sordid tale and repeatedly whacks you around the face until you don’t know what to think anymore.
I’d imagine this film was quite the departure for some of the actors involved but what a fun movie and concept to be in. It could easily be a B-movie with a list of nobodies, but the way it has this high-class sheen, set in the luxurious community of Blue Bay, where yachting and sail boats seem to be the ‘in’ thing, makes the film that much more effective. The impeccable choice of cast are also committed to giving the performances their all, even with the risqué scenes, some of which would have been taboo at the time the film was made.
What starts off as a film with a plot that deals with something to be taken very seriously, soon unravels into something else entirely. There’s never a dull moment, even if the actions of some of the characters makes you want to roll your eyes and go “really?!”. With its vivid and bright style and attitude, complete with an upbeat soundtrack, WILD THINGS is a thoroughly enjoyable movie to watch. It also features an unusual score that differs so much to what you’d expect and is sometimes placed for hilarious effect which contradicts the scene it’s in. For instance, when Mrs Van Ryan (Russell) is at the police station to report her daughter’s rape, the score turns a scene what could be considered serious into something with a comical edge, though this is helped too by Russell’s delivery.
With its salacious scenes and lurid plot that likes to make you second guess the outcome, or surprise you when you don’t expect it, WILD THINGS is a tantalising tease of 90’s neo-noir crime sleaze.
Over two decades on from its original release, Arrow Video have brought out WILD THINGS on limited edition 4K UHD and Blu-Ray with a host of extras, including a double-sided fold-out poster, illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anne Billson and Sean Hogan, six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproductions and reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sam Hadley.
The visual looks fantastic thanks to new 4K restorations of both the Original Theatrical Version and the Unrated Edition from the original camera negatives by Sony Pictures Entertainment with original uncompressed stereo audio and DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround audio.
The Arrow Video release of WILD THINGS on Blu-Ray contains an array of special features, including:
Original Theatrical Cut of the film ( 108 mins)
Unrated Edition of the film (114 mins)
Exclusive New Audio Commentary with director John McNaughton and producer Steven A. Jones – In this new audio commentary, McNaughton and Jones provide factual tidbits about working on the film. It’s not a continuous, rolling commentary but rather the duo comment when there’s something interesting to share, such as background on the cast or the shoot.
Audio Commentary with director John McNaughton and crew (editor Elena Maganini, producers Steve A. Jones and Rodney Liber, cinematographer Jeffrey Kimball and composer George S. Clinton) – This audio commentary with McNaughton and crew takes on a much more technical approach, divulging facts and background on the making of, locations and the score, amongst other aspects of filmmaking and is a fascinating listen for anyone interested in the making of movies.
Exclusive New Interview with John McNaughton (26 mins) – Director John McNaughton talks about how he wanted to do a commercial film when he got the job to direct Wild Things and proceeds to describe working on the movie and even comments on Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. He talks about the Wild Things script having to be rewritten slightly to make it more believable but liked that the idea itself could actually happen in reality. He makes clear that the core plot didn’t change one bit from the original script. He talks about how he and the script rewriter spent time in South Florida to get a feel for the location which influenced the feel and subsequent writing.
Exclusive New Interview with Denise Richards (14 mins) – In this recent interview for the 2022 release, Denise describes working on the film and how much fun she had working, as an unknown, with so many big names, even if it was a little intimidating. At the time, she’d only shot Starship Troopers before landing a major role in Wild Things. She talks about auditioning for the role, what she tried to bring to the character of Kelly Van Ryan, and what it was like filming the risqué scenes. She appears to have fond memories of filming Wild Things which lasted three months in Florida and said it was a career changer that opened the door to more projects.
On-Set Interviews (4 mins) – A short featurette showing behind the scenes of making the film interspersed with interviews with the film’s stars including Kevin Bacon, Neve Campbell, Matt Dillon, Denise Richards and Bill Murray, as well as director John McNaughton.
‘An Understanding Lawyer’ Outtakes (27 seconds) – Bill Murray’s provides a range of responses to Sam Lombardo’s statement that he doesn’t sleep with his students.
Stills Gallery – 45 still images from the film which can be cycled through using the remote control.