Film Discussion

Throwback 20: Wild Things

Always seen as something of a guilty pleasure for many and it’s not hard to see why, 1998’s sex crime thriller Wild Things is pure, trashy fun from start to finish.  From it’s sweaty, swampy South Florida setting, it’s horny George S. Clinton score and it’s ham-fisted script and performances as well as a particularly famous sex scene, Wild Things is about pure adult entertainment. But it also has enough twists and turns throughout to make it an enjoyable and worthwhile watch. Plus, Bill Murray’s in it. And if that doesn’t make you want to watch it then, well there’s no hope for you left on this earth, I’m afraid.

Like other famous erotic thrillers; 9 & 1/2 Weeks and Basic Instinct, for example, a stupidly sexy female lead is key. Enter Denise Richards (so to speak…), whose stunning looks and curves definitely got many pulses racing and many dads down the video rental rental store (when such things existed) as soon as possible. Add in the lovely, but more down-to-earth looking Neve Campbell, sparks flew and pants evaporated.

But for writer Stephen Peters and director John McNaughton, Wild Things needed at least some substance for longevity, something to keep audiences coming back and on the edge of their seats, and not just for *that* scene. Obviously, throwing in a rape accusation is always going to turn heads and be potentially controversial. But in a film as already as silly as this you’re already questioning the actions and motives of the alleged victim, so instead of getting caught up in some emotional drama, you’re just happy to go along for the ride, knowing that it’ll probably be more entertaining than shocking. Especially if it means perving over Denise Richards for another hour or so….

Wild Things also has the other typical ingredient needed for a film of this sort: a dirty cop. Kevin Bacon’s  Sgt. Ray Duquette seems to have it all worked out pretty much from the start. A seasoned and hardened cop that this small town needs. Or is he? Of course he’s bloody not! So just when it seems he might be closing in on the potential rapist, school guidance counsellor Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillon), you realise he might be as dodgy as the rest of them.  Another nice, if generic move is the pairing of Denise Richards’ rich kid, Kelly Van Ryan and Neve Campbell’s poor and rebellious Suzie Toller. Of course, all of the above have plenty to hide which plays out enjoyably as the film goes on and there’s also post-credits scenes which quite handily fill in details of the back story.

To be honest, by the end of Wild Things you might be thinking how it’s all been a bit silly. But then if you’re thinking that like it’s a bad thing then you’ve missed the point of a film that revels in its over-the-top schlock and blatant trashiness. It might be silly, yes, but it’s also a fun, sexy and entertaining thriller. Plus, you’ve watched Bill Murray play a dodgy (of course) lawyer so what more do you want?

And if you’ve yet to watch Wild Things and are wondering what I meant by *that* scene : Denise Richards, Neve Campbell, Matt Dillon and a bottle of Champagne… you work it out.

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