Arrow Heads #101: WILD THINGS

Crime and carnality fuel this sleazy, Floridian noir

Arrow Heads — UK-based Arrow Films has quickly become one of the most exciting and dependable names in home video curation and distribution, creating gorgeous Blu-ray releases with high quality artwork and packaging, and bursting with supplemental content, often of their own creation. From cult and genre fare to artful cinema, this column is devoted to their weird and wonderful output.

Carnality and crime collide in Blue Bay, Florida. Caught in the middle is high school guidance counselor (and town charmer) Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillon). A charmer, with women vying for his attention, his world is put into a tailspin after an accusation of rape from one of his students. The words of the affluent Kelly Van Ryan (Denise Richards) are given further weight when Suzie Toller (Neve Campbell), a girl from the wrong side of tracks (literally), steps forward to claim she was a victim too. Sensing something isn’t quite right Detective Ray Duquette (Kevin Bacon) and partner Detective Gloria Perez (Daphne Rubin-Vega) investigate, and uncover this crime is just the tip of the iceberg. A sleazy scheme in a seaside town, rife with lies, intrigue, and sex.

There’s something enduringly trashy about Florida. Whether you follow the shenanigans of this state in the news, or via their Twitter account, the seedy and misguided events in the sunshine state continue to provide entertainment, and a setting for some salacious tales. One of the most cherished is undoubtedly Wild Things. Since release in 1998, its cult following has grown, as has a deeper appreciation for what it achieves. More than just a trashy, guilty pleasure, Wild Things has some substance amidst the steam and sleaze. Essentially a neo-noir, the film stays true to its roots with its hard boiled detectives, femme fatales, a patsy or two, and a twisty duplicitous plot. One with some outlandish twists and turns, that unashamedly veers into the absurd. This scheme at play, is essentially undermined as all the players seems set on looking after number one, or are unable to trust each other. Further problems (and complexity) comes from how morally bankrupt they are. Their positions and motives informed by the obvious class/social divides within this school, and community as a whole, and motives driven by desperation or desire, tilting Wild Things into an erotic thriller.

What really drives this sexual charge is a sprinkling of stardust amongst the cast. 80s/90s heartthrob Matt Dillon (Rumble Fish, The Outsiders, Drugstore Cowboy, To Die For) adds that bad boy streak to proceedings, while Neve Campbell (breaking apart that nice girl image cultivated in Party of Five) and Denise Richards (coming off her debut in 1997’s Starship Troopers), read the tone the film requires perfectly. Rounding things out is pervasive cinematic stalwart Kevin Bacon (Tremors, Flatliners, The River Wild), and the notable presence of Bill Murray, having a whale of a time as a tacky strip-mall lawyer. This sense of energy and entertainment is carefully cultivated by director John McNaughton, and a refusal to take itself too seriously is what ensures the film has endured. The script from Stephen Peters often dispenses with good taste and logic to embrace a lurid level of fun. A campy, tawdry tale that leans hard into the sultry surrounds of Florida.

The Package

In the past year, as Arrow has embraced the 4K format, their releases have always impressed, and Wild Things is no different. A truly appreciable step up in terms of detail. This extends to color range, and the depth of blacks. The result is that even in the shadows (and there are plenty), much more detail is evident within the picture. The grain does seem to vary somewhat, being a tad heavier in the lighter scenes, but this is a minor thing.

The package is well put together, featuring a hardcard coverslip, housing the disc package, a double-sided fold out poster, 6 lobby card reproductions, and a collector’s booklet containing information on the film’s restoration, as well as two essays on the movie itself by Anne Billson and Sean Hogan.

Extra Features

  • New 4K restorations of both the Original Theatrical Version (1h 48 min) and the Unrated Edition (1h 55 min)
  • Exclusive new audio commentary by director John McNaughton and producer Steven A. Jones: The pair chat about making the film, scouting and securing locations, experiences with the cast and crew, and more. The recent taping is enhanced by the infusion of nostalgia and growing cult status of the film
  • Commentary by director John McNaughton, cinematographer Jeffrey Kimball, producers Steven A. Jones and Rodney Liber, editor Elena Maganini and score composer George S. Clinton: Similar content to the newer commentary, but with a more diverse perspective offered due to those assembled. Sometimes a few too many voices leaves it hard to follow
  • Exclusive new interview with John McNaughton: Just over 25 minutes of reminiscing about the shoot, and experiences with the cast
  • Exclusive new interview with Denise Richards: Richards shares the story about how she (eventually) got the part, and how she views the film all these years later
  • Making of documentary: Pretty insubstantial compilation of interviews, more than anything really resembling a making of
  • An Understanding Lawyer outtakes: Just a few seconds of Bill Murray riffing some lines as his character from the movie
  • Trailer and Stills Gallery

The Bottom Line

Wild Things is as slick and stylish as it is sleazy and salacious. With a twisty plot, and lurid tone, one aided by its game cast, its entertainment value is undiminished even after 24 years. Arrow go above and beyond yet again, with an impressive 4K transfer, and a host of extras to match.

Wild Things 4K is available via Arrow Video now

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