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July 16, 2018 10:35 PM   Subscribe

That’s 12 double-crosses in a movie with a runtime of 108 minutes. That’s an average of one double-cross every nine minutes, which is an extremely high DCPM (double-cross per minute) rate. There’s also the raccoon, and a few alligators, and Kevin Bacon’s alligator, and the pool scene, and Bill Murray as a lawyer. It’s a lot. Wild Things is a lot.
Wild Things, one of the sleaziest wide releases of the '90s, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. [spoilers abound in all links]

The Erotic Thriller 'Wild Things' Deserves a Better Reputation Than 'Guilty Pleasure'
Wild Things is often regarded as a sleazy guilty pleasure. Wild Things should be regarded as a dizzyingly constructed maze of a film -- and one of the last great erotic thrillers.

By the late '90s, the genre, with its femme fatales and stylized settings, was receding from its cultural dominance as studios chased the coveted young-person demographic, and mores around on-screen sexual provocation began to change, with pornography and political correctness becoming simultaneously more mainstream. The "adult" subject matter of the erotic thriller means few of them involve teenage characters, aside from a handful of notable exceptions like Poison Ivy and Cruel Intentions. But director John McNaughton pushed Wild Things, released 20 years ago this month, into ever more lurid and ultimately rewarding directions.

Wild Things plays a dangerous game: Not only does the film center on two high-school girls, the bratty Kelly (Denise Richards) and the poor goth Suzie (Neve Campbell), but it sets them up in a complex storyline involving false rape allegations against their guidance counselor, Sam (Matt Dillon). By any definition, the plot of Wild Things is, to use a thinkpiece buzzword, "problematic." But wait! There’s more. And more. And more.
Hear Me Out: Wild Things Is Surprisingly Feminist
A huge problem with female characters in movies are that they are often flat—they portray women as "nagging wives," "supportive girlfriends," or "dead hookers" and that's about it. Their sole purpose is to support the guy. But in Wild Things, the female characters are not only multidimensional, but head-spinningly so. Spoiled Floridian princess Kelly (Denise Richards) and drug-addled swamp priestess Suzie (Neve Campbell) are two of the most well-rounded, fascinating, and exciting characters to ever grace the screen. They're smart, conniving, dark, layered, and riotously funny. They fight, they love, they have sex, they scheme—often with each other—and they love every second of it. These women have agency and points of view—how many times can you say that about a woman in a Marvel movie?
Why “Wild Things” Was A Defining Film For Gay Men In The ’90s
Nudity aside, the scene is as homoerotic as it can be without Dillon and Bacon actually embracing. The men are clearly very comfortable with each other — there’s no hint of awkwardness when Sam walks in on Ray in the shower — and given the film’s relentless sexuality, the idea that these dudes might not just be friends and partners in crime feels more than a little implied. If Wild Things were made today — please, god, without the false rape accusation — it’s likely that the scene would have played out differently, with Sam joining Ray in the shower. (Or perhaps that’s just wishful thinking from a former closeted teen who always imagined it ending that way.)
13 Wild Facts About Wild Things

That already racy scene in which Dillon throws a nude Bacon a towel almost pushed the envelope further. Dillon was supposed to join Bacon in the shower and kiss him, but Dillon was against the idea. “Man, I was relieved when they got rid of that scene,” Dillon told Total Film. “Kevin seemed pretty attached to it through. One twist too many, man, one twist too many."

“I thought it was great because the whole movie is about secrets coming out, right?” Bacon also told Total Film. “As reveals go, that one was just huge [no pun intended]. Unfortunately, the financiers didn’t like the idea of men making out. They felt it went too far. They felt it wasn’t right.”
And while it most likely will never happen:

Bonkers ‘Wild Things’ Sequel Based on Amanda Knox Story in the Works
McNaughton tells that he and screenwriter Stephen Peters, who wrote the original as well as direct-to-DVD sequels Wild Things 2 and Wild Things: Diamonds in the Rough, are working on another Wild Things movie.

“It’s not one of the sequels, but about their children,” he says. OK, that sounds odd, but just wait. It gets real crazy. “Do you know the Amanda Knox case? It’s something like that. Something that’s like the child of Suzie Toller [Campbell’s character], she claimed that Matt Dillon‘s [character] had raped her a long time ago and maybe there is a child and maybe Bill Murray‘s character had a child and they’re exchange students and things get out of hand. We’re calling it Wild Child Things.”
posted by edeezy (21 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

Ooooh. Great round up!
posted by k8t at 11:12 PM on July 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

Wild Things, or as i like to call it 'the movie i played on the vcr in my brother's room at the lowest volume possible, WITH THE DOOR CLOSED, always with one finger on the pause button and another on the switch to change the screen to the sega genesis'.
posted by ovenmitt at 11:24 PM on July 16, 2018 [17 favorites]

Never has there been a movie I hated so wholeheartedly, so unreservedly, that also had such a positive effect on my life.

On one hand, I felt that the film is a narrative cheat. It hides so many pivotal moments for flashbacks at the end that the viewer doesn’t have a sporting chance to figure out the characters. (At the time, this was unforgivable.)

On the other hand, I had a lot of beer before the movie, and yet would not leave for the washroom, because I might miss Kevin Bacon’s nudity. My queerness was undeniable, and I started coming out later that week.
posted by Banknote of the year at 12:16 AM on July 17, 2018 [12 favorites]

I saw this on release and the main thing that has stuck with me is that right before the hundred twists and double crosses per second start unfurling, Matt Dillon's character remarks that accusations of sexual misconduct are SO POWERFUL, that even if proven untrue they will irrevocably ruin a man's life. Sigh.
posted by seraphine at 1:01 AM on July 17, 2018 [6 favorites]

It's a work of genius. Much more of a pisstake than it initially seems to be, but not in a wham-wham-wham way like Starship Troopers. Closer - I seem to remember - to the similarly underrated One Night at McCool's, in which Michael Douglas's hair does some fine work.

Crazy plot twists. Denise Richards's finest hour. Bill Murray. Kevin Bacon's, er, bacon. The soundtrack is good too.
posted by Mocata at 2:52 AM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

To add another review, Outlaw Vern began his Summer of '98 retrospective a couple months back by covering it, too.
posted by Strutter Cane - United Planets Stilt Patrol at 3:01 AM on July 17, 2018

I would have sworn on a copy of Valley of the Dolls that Dillon got in the shower with Bacon. And with Kevin.
posted by Etrigan at 3:58 AM on July 17, 2018

One thing I love about being a bit older and having lived through the birth of the Internet is that we're now getting all of these epic oral history/re-assesments of older films, music, games, media, etc. There weren't as many voices from this kind of movie review/film criticism back in the day. Or maybe there were, but we just weren't paying attention to the right voices and they lacked the agency/power to get heard.

But now we have all kinds of people talking about their love of films that are often just written off or pushed to the sides because they don't meet certain more mainstream standards of criticism/review. Even if you're not a fan of the film, you can appreciate all the criticism and media journalism around these kinds of things.
posted by Fizz at 5:30 AM on July 17, 2018 [6 favorites]

Wild Things, or as i like to call it 'the movie i played on the vcr in my brother's room at the lowest volume possible, WITH THE DOOR CLOSED, always with one finger on the pause button and another on the switch to change the screen to the sega genesis'.

The movie that Dad thought would be be good to pick up from Blockbuster when he and Mom came up for a visit. Awkward.
posted by Foosnark at 5:50 AM on July 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

I knew before I clicked on that first link that it must be a Shea Serrano piece. I enjoy his writing a ton, even when it is about things I have never cared about before (basketball, this movie).
posted by hepta at 5:52 AM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

I still remember my mother’s capsule review, when she and a friend came home from seeing it in theaters: “Those things, they certainly were wild.”
posted by incomple at 6:22 AM on July 17, 2018 [18 favorites]

If you like Shea Serrano's writing, he's even better speaking. He's a frequent guest on the Rewatchables podcast from the Ringer, where Bill Simmons and a couple of other Ringer staffers discuss older movies. It's pretty great, and even better when Serrano is a guest. He's absolutely hilarious. His voice is so full of enthusiasm.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:35 AM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

It was a crazy movie, forgot some of the plot twists. Think we're going to have to watch it again, although I can't watch Matt Dillon now without picturing him with those teeth from Something About Mary.
posted by arcticseal at 7:19 AM on July 17, 2018

Bill Murray washing his armpits with a contract... That image has never left me. I'm a total sucker for that kind of anti-authority insouciance!
posted by M-x shell at 7:20 AM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Two heads looking back at you accusingly like you sank Robert Palmer's air guitar party boat.
posted by pracowity at 7:40 AM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

(psa, the final link on this post made chrome freak the fuck out about dangerous websites that will harm my computer and possibly come to my home and punch me in the face)
posted by poffin boffin at 8:40 AM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

I would have sworn on a copy of Valley of the Dolls that Dillon got in the shower with Bacon. And with Kevin.

When we saw this in a SINGLE SCREEN mainstream theatre that summer we all thought that there was a missed opportunity. It honestly looked like it was going to go in that direction for a moment but kind of chickens out. 1998 was just not ready for 2 male stars to erotically shower with each other.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:55 AM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

kevin bacon was damn ready though and i salute him.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:58 AM on July 17, 2018 [13 favorites]

Wild Things comes up infrequently enough on my cable rotation that I always forget all of these twists each time I see it. Come to think of it, I've never gone back and checked that all the scheming and conniving actually made sense. E.g.: are there times when two characters who are in cahoots (which is basically everybody) are alone together but act like they're not in cahoots. I would guess that this movie is not really that careful about this kind of stuff.
posted by mhum at 12:22 PM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Erotic Thriller 'Wild Things' Deserves a Better Reputation Than 'Guilty Pleasure'

I'm not sure I agree with you 100% on your police work, there, Lou.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:19 PM on July 17, 2018

My favorite thing about this movie is that the copy I rented from my beloved indie video store had a frame of handwritten text around the box that said, "plot twist plot twist plot twist plot twist plot twist plot twist plot twist"
posted by tangosnail at 11:53 AM on July 18, 2018

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