As I’ve always cautioned, monsters – even in this world – come in all shapes and sizes, but the deadliest by far has been, remains, and always will be man itself. Why? Well, that’s because despite all we know about ourselves we are always fundamentally unpredictable. Circumstances can change in a heartbeat, and such pervasive uncertainty might cause us to act in a way against our long-term self-interest. We’ve always had a measure of intellectual cunning – even (gasp) the dumbest among us – and we’ve proven time-and-time-again that – in the heat of the moment – we’re liable to do damn near anything to save ourselves from that inevitable ending which ultimately awaits us all.
Still, films like Wild Things (1998) are a gem because they pull back the curtain on what we’re willing to do in order to achieve “the very best life” before that inevitable ending. As an audience, we get to see vicariously how those responding to darker impulses might very well think things, say things, do things … some very wild things, as it were … to speed themselves either to (at best) utopia or (at worst) their doom. Logic be damned. Safety be damned. Morality be damned.
It's truly a walk on the wild side.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging:
“Popular and charming, student counselor Sam Lombardo is no stranger to being the focus of female attention within the moneyed cliques of Florida’s Blue Bay. His fortunes are about to change dramatically, however, when one of the wealthiest students at his high school, sultry Kelly Van Ryan, accuses him of rape. The charge looks sure to stick when another girl from the other end of the social spectrum, Suzie Toller, steps forward with her own allegations, but Detective Duquette smells something fishy, and the truth is as murky and dangerous as the alligator-infested swamps in the hinterlands of this affluent beach community.”
Upon its original theatrical release, Wild Things created a bit of a cultural stir: it was heavily advertised as a silver screen sexual thriller, much along the lines of Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct (1992). In the earlier film, one of actress Sharon Stone’s (ahem) “finer assets” was rather famously shown up in the lights and shadows during a now infamous police interrogation scene. That sequence and the flick’s hot-and-heavy sex sequences kinda/sorta suggested that Hollywood was willing to push boundaries that had been already broken decades earlier with conventional pornography; and many of the films that followed in the years after tried to pick up that mantle and run with it. Few truly did, but promotional executives thought they had the next incarnation with the McNaughton film.
However, what intrigued audiences far more – and deservedly so – was screenwriter Stephen Peters’ labyrinthian plot along with director McNaughton’s masterful construction. Though occasionally a bit convoluted, the tale worked as a conventional crime thriller with an unconventional presentation, taking the audiences indeed on a wild ride through the present and then unspooling it (in the climax) with some narrative flashbacks. Viewers found out who the guilty culprit was (I won’t spoil it), only then needing to be taken back through the events to understand the exact how and why of it all. It’s a calculated risk – one I’ve only seen achieved sparingly on the screen – but the payoff works incredibly well, making these Wild Things an absolute treat.
Wild Things (1998) was produced by Mandalay Entertainment. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by the reliable Arrow Video Films. As for the technical specifications? Well, I’ve frequently reminded regular readers that I’m no ‘tech junkie,’ but I thought this film looked and sounded downright fabulous in this 4K presentation. As one who has spent a fair amount of time in and around Florida communities kinda/sorta like this one, the shooting locations and overall feel of the production is spot on. Very well done by the production choices.
As for the special features? Arrow Video is no slouch, and they’ve given audiences something special to enjoy here on top of the 4K restoration. First up, the set boasts the original theatrical version along with an Unrated Version. (FYI: I watched the Unrated, and I couldn’t say specifically what was added to the original.) There are not one but two commentary tracks, both involving McNaughton (obviously) at various stages in his life. (His recollections are very good in both, maybe even a bit too lively in a few cases.) Naturally, there are the usual interview shorts, production stills, and even a few outtakes (all centered on Bill Murray, who I honestly had completely forgotten was in this.) Lastly, there’s a great collector’s booklet with multiple essays as well as some new art and postcard-sized reproductions of lobby cards. As usual, Arrow does not disappoint.
Highly recommended. Performances are spot on, the narrative couldn’t be any tighter, and Wild Things gives one of the screen’s best jaunts through the sexy and sweaty underbelly of screen revenge. (FYI: you won’t know it’s a revenge flick until the very end, folks, so watch closely.) Like a good book, the feature film is the kind of experience that can be enjoyed across multiple viewings, and the guiltier pleasures just get seedier each time you experience them. The twists are not always perfect, mind you, but they’re imminently watchable. (Here’s looking at you, Denise Richards!) Enjoy … you bad, bad boy, you.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Arrow Video provided me with a complimentary 4K UltraHD Blu-ray of Wild Things by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.