Wild Things Review

Michael Brooke has reviewed the Region 2 DVD release of Wild Things

Along with Oliver Stone’s U-Turn, released at roughly the same time, Wild Things is one of my great guilty pleasures of the late 1990s – a spectacularly shameless, sleazy melodrama with a corkscrew plot that has so many twists that I’m going to reveal as little as possible in this review: the less you know in advance, the better.

Set in the decidedly upmarket resort town of Blue Bay, Florida, the film stars Matt Dillon as Sam Lombardo, a teacher who combines the respect of his peers with genuine popularity amongst his students. But things change dramatically when he’s accused of raping Kelly Van Ryan (Denise Richards), and the subsequent police investigation reveals that she isn’t the only one…

And that’s all I’m going to tell you about the plot, but you can rest assured that the terrific cast offers pleasures galore: we have Neve Campbell as trailer trash Suzie, whose testimony is crucial to the case, Kevin Bacon as an overly suspicious detective, Theresa Russell as Kelly’s oversexed mother and above all Bill Murray as Lombardo’s wonderfully slimy defence lawyer.

And those who are thinking of buying the DVD because the cover art hints that you might get to see Denise Richards and Neve Campbell in various states of undress… well, let’s just say you aren’t likely to be too disappointed. Richards in particular seems to spend most of the running time soaking wet, which is odd because I don’t recall a single scene where it was raining (“Where’s your hose?” is one of the first things she asks the hapless Dillon).

Director John McNaughton is still best known for Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and stylistically Wild Things couldn’t be more different – as befits its setting, it looks glossy and expensive. But both films share the same glee in pulling the rug out from under the audience’s expectations, and I particularly liked the closing credits – I initially thought we were being shown out-takes (given that there are no flashbacks anywhere else in the film), but in fact they turned out to be scenes containing crucial information that we weren’t given at the time the main plot was unspooling, finishing up with yet another major twist. But by that time your perceptions and expectations have been so thoroughly turned on their head that it doesn’t come as much of a surprise any more.

As for the DVD, there’s not too much to complain about on the visual side of things. Presented in anamorphic PAL at the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the DVD picture is for the most part pin-sharp, richly coloured and with plenty of fine detail. My only real quibble is that digital artefacting can sometimes be a little obtrusive in out-of-focus backgrounds, but that’s a very minor point – and it’s unlikely anyone will be too disappointed.

Disappointingly for a 1998 release (and unforgivably when you consider the R1 DVD offers Dolby Digital 5.1), the soundtrack is Pro-Logic only, but on its own terms it’s effective enough, with the location offering plenty of scope for atmospheric backgrounds that are exploited to the full (the music fits the images like a glove, both in terms of George S.Clinton’s original score and well-chosen songs by the likes of Morphine). Chapter stops have been set at a rather skimpy twelve.

In terms of extras, there’s the original theatrical trailer (which I strongly recommend you don’t watch before the film – it gives away a little too much of the plot for my taste) and a four-minute production featurette that’s essentially the trailer all over again with a few rather skimpy interviews cut in. Not much, in other words, and to add insult to injury the R1 version came with an audio commentary (and a French language option, alternate 4:3 version and DD5.1 soundtrack) – so if you’re interested in Wild Things at all, that’s unquestionably the DVD to go for.

Michael Brooke

Updated: Feb 27, 1999

Get involved
Continue the conversation over on The Digital Fix Forum
Wild Things Review | The Digital Fix