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Mark Steven Johnson
Matt Dillon, Kevin Bacon, Bill Murray, Neve Campbell, Denise Richards, Daphne Rubin-Vega
Writing Credits:
Mark Steven Johnson

Be wild. Be wicked. Beware.

This star-packed, swamp-steamy thriller about two high-school students who accuse their guidance counselor of rape is hotter than ever.

Box Office:
$20 million.
Opening Weekend
$9.622 million on 2177 screens.
Domestic Gross
$29.753 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 108 min.
Price: $19.95
Release Date: 9/8/1998

• Audio Commentary with Director John McNaughton, Cinematographer Jeffrey Kimball, Editor Elena Maganini, producers Steven A. Jones and Rodney M. Liber, and Composer George S. Clinton
• Deleted Scenes
• Trailers
• Booklet


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Wild Things (1998)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 29, 2004)

You know all those cheesy sex thrillers they show weekends on cable? Straight-to-video classics with titles like Naked Lies, Stormy Nights, or Victim of Desire? Well, if you've seen any of those movies, you've essentially seen Wild Things. Oh, it features a B+ list cast, much better production values, and more wit and cleverness, but Wild Things clearly has more in common with its late-night cable brethren than it does with typical multiplex fare.

Don't misinterpret my comments as a knock on Wild Things, however. Yes, it's trash, but it's gleeful trash. It knows and comprehends its nature and it never really aspires to be anything BUT sleazy fun. Never do you get the feeling that the filmmakers are trying to make any grand statements; it's a thriller in a soap opera setting.

In that regard, Wild Things largely succeeds. It takes the viewer on a fairly convoluted ride through a variety of mostly implausible plot twists and turns and it frequently ends up in unexpected places. You won't find terribly crisp or memorable dialogue, and you won't find extremely compelling characters. You will get a story that is worth watching, however.

In fact, I was surprised to discover that Wild Things is worth re-watching. Only six weeks passed between my first and second screenings of Things. When I first took it in, I thought it was enjoyable but nothing special. Certainly it was worth what I paid for it I got it for a whopping 33 cents via one of those nutty Internet specials back in the late Nineties but that was about the extent of my enthusiasm.

I watched it a second time so soon after the first to write my old review. I wasn't really looking forward to this re-screening because it hadn't been very long since my first viewing and also because the film seemed to really rely on the element of surprise. I didn't anticipate that it would be very interesting the second time since I already knew what strange turns the story would take.

To my surprise, I found the second viewing to be at least as enjoyable as the first. While I think part of this was because I found it interesting to examine the events more from the perspective of the characters as they actually understood things - not as you think they interpret their environment - I really can't explain why the film remained compelling for me.

Okay, some of the steamy scenes didn't hurt. If I ever get tired of watching Neve Campbell and Denise Richards make out, please shoot me. While Wild Things probably contains less sex than its B-movie compatriots, it nonetheless heats things up more than most theatrical releases. There are also a fair number of seemingly gratuitous shots of Denise Richards in skimpy outfits.

While some may argue that these bits are unnecessary, I disagree. This film has no real reason to exist if not for its sexy nature, and the picture really seems to revel in that fact. The shots of women in revealing outfits didn't seem exploitative to me; at the risk of sounding glib, it all appeared to be in the gleefully trashy spirit of the movie. And for the record, no one in the film bares more than Kevin Bacon, who lets us all see his schlong; for those opposed to nude scenes in movies, this probably won't help - male or female nudity shouldn't matter - but at least the film took an equal opportunity approach to the matter.

Truly it is the quality of the film that makes it more notable than the cable classics. Not only did this mean that the movie would look and sound good, which it did, but this also allowed the filmmakers to attract a much higher caliber of acting talent than would normally be found in this kind of project. Both Matt Dillon and Bacon are good but unspectacular as the male leads, and both Bill Murray and Robert Wagner make great use of their supporting roles.

However, the most interesting acting really came from the female leads, Neve Campbell and Denise Richards. Much has been made about how Campbell took this role to combat her "good girl" image and how it would be such a stretch for her. I agree that her white trash character definitely takes her into different territory than she entered in Party of Five and Scream, but unfortunately she didn't seem to alter her acting style much. I thought she still came across as her usual sweet/semi-vulnerable self; no matter how nasty she was supposed to be, she kept that little twinkle in her eye that made her popular.

Richards, on the other hand, was a different story. Whatever acting reputation she made was built largely on her role in Starship Troopers and The World Is Not Enough. Her work in those two flicks didnt exactly line her up to look toward a future Oscar.

I thought it made sense that Theresa Russell was cast of Richards' mother in Wild Thing. Russell built a career in the 1980's as a vixen with absolutely no acting talents, so why not make connect her to Richards, a woman who seemed set to inherit that mantle? Surprisingly, however, Richards acquits herself well in Wild Things. Oh, she's no Olivier - though Olivier probably wouldn't have succeeded in the role, since he's a man and he's dead - but she nonetheless does some pretty good work here. It probably helps that unlike her fighter pilot role in Starship Troopers, here she plays a conniving sexpot who uses her looks and her money to get what she wants; doesn't exactly seem to be as much of a stretch, does it? Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Richards actually can come across as less wooden than Pinocchio.

No one will ever confuse Wild Things for a classic. Nonetheless, it sits as a good example of its genre. It does what it does well and offers a frisky and interesting piece of fluff.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus C+

Wild Things appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed edition was viewed for this article. Most of the picture looked excellent, but a few concerns knocked down my grade somewhat.

Across the board, sharpness seemed very good. A few wide shots displayed light softness, primarily due to some minor edge enhancement. Mild haloes appeared from time to time. Otherwise, the movie seemed distinctive and detailed. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering. Print flaws were nearly non-existent. I saw a couple of small specks but that was it. Otherwise the movie looked clean and smooth.

With its Florida setting, Things featured a vibrant palette that came across wonderfully on this DVD. The movie demonstrated a wide array of hues, and they looked great. The tropical colors appeared bright and dynamic; they hopped off the screen at times. Blacks also seemed deep and firm, while low-light shots displayed nice dimensionality and precision. The edge enhancement distracted me enough to drop my grade to B+, but I still mostly felt impressed with the picture quality.

Similar thoughts greeted the mostly terrific Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Wild Things. Given the films scope, the soundfield mainly concentrated on ambience. However, it did so in an unusually involving manner. Various environmental elements constantly popped up in the forward channels to create a nicely engrossing feel. The surrounds also kicked in with solid atmospherics and occasionally demonstrated stereo material. For example, early in the film a car zoomed from front to rear and across the back. This was about as showy as the mix got, but it seemed like a satisfying use of the format. Music also showed nice delineation and cropped up neatly in the rear speakers at times.

As for the audio quality, the mix sounded great. Speech consistently came across as clear and accurate, with no issues connected to intelligibility or edginess. Effects sounded concise and detailed. The mix boasted firm bass response as necessary, and the various elements sounded clean and distinctive. The vaguely jazzy score fared especially well. Music seemed smooth and frothy and showed strong range. Highs were crisp and bright, while low-end came across as wonderfully rich and lively. The audio of Wild Things got a B+ primarily due to the somewhat restricted ambition of the soundfield, but it still worked quite well for this sort of film.

Something that sounds good but disappoints is the collection of supplemental materials on the Wild Things DVD. The package promises what appears to make for a nice little bunch of extras. In the end, however, only the commentary really pleases.

Although it's billed as a director's commentary, it's much more than that; it includes director John McNaughton, cinematographer Jeffrey Kimball, editor Elena Maganini, composer George S. Clinton, and producers Steven A. Jones and Rodney M. Liber. It's a nicely casual track, as evidenced by the fact that five of the participants started Kimball even arrived! They all seem very enthusiastic about the project but they never treat it with any kind of feigned seriousness; they know it's just a funky little potboiler and they seem to regard it as a fun film and nothing more.

One aspect of the audio commentary that I really like stems from the way the participants discuss just how much work goes into making movies. I think a lot of times people see silly little films like Wild Things and imagine that the whole project gets tossed out quickly and easily. It's illuminating to hear just how much work took place to make this thing happen, and also to learn how hard the participants toiled to make it just the way they wanted; even a trashy movie like this requires a lot of forethought and effort. The commentators communicate their activities thoroughly and entertainingly; they all seemed to have a lot of fun discussing the film.

I found the deleted scenes to be disappointing. Only three are included, and the last one ("Feeding the Gator") is just a goofball outtake. Actually, only one is a true deleted scene; it involves a conference between the lawyers played by Bill Murray and Robert Wagner. The final piece included on the DVD simply involves additional takes of an existing scene; we see Murray try out different reactions to a comment made by Matt Dillon. Yeah, I'd rather have this material included than receive nothing at all, but I nonetheless didn't find it very interesting.

Finally, the DVD includes two theatrical trailers: one for Wild Things and one for Starship Troopers. Watching the Wild Thing trailer made me glad I didn't see the film during its theatrical release when the images from it and TV commercials were fresh in my mind; I didn't recall that the trailer gave away so many of the plot twists, so I was glad I saw the film without that foreknowledge in my mind.

The booklet included with the Wild Things DVD details some basic but interesting production notes. It's nothing special, but it's nice to have.

A light but fun sex thriller, Wild Things shares a lot in common with many C-level straight to video romps. However, it boasts better production values and a borderline campy sense of fun that make it entertaining. The DVD presents generally solid picture and sound with some fairly minor extras, though the audio commentary provides nice notes. Wild Things at least merits a rental.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 24
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