Wild Things

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

Category Thriller Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.85:1 16x9, Dolby Digital 5.1
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1998 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time
(Not 108 Minutes as per packaging) 
Other Extras Cast & Crew Biographies
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 4 Director John McNaughton

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Kevin Bacon 
Matt Dillon 
Neve Campbell 
Theresa Russell 
Denise Richards 
Daphne Rubin-Vega 
Robert Wagner 
Bill Murray
RRP $34.95 Music George S. Clinton

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (MPEG 5.1, 256Kb/s)
English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, during credits

Plot Synopsis

    As an erotic thriller, Wild Things works well for me because it has enough to keep the literary brain satisfied while the other region of the brain which it tries to stimulate gets a subtle, and surprisingly effective, workout. It also has the added bonus of Denise Richards in minimal or no clothing during most of her scenes. Unfortunately, Party Of Five star Neve Campbell had a no-nudity clause in her contract, which cuts down the impact of one of the film's key sequences. While it only cuts down the impact to a small degree, it is rather frustrating to look at. Campbell had been quoted in several local magazines previous to the theatrical release of this film as wanting to break out of the family-viewing mould she felt that she'd been stuck in as a result of her appearance on Party Of Five. She was also quoted in one magazine as stating that acting in a three-way sex scene requires a lot of concentration. I presume that one would have to concentrate hard on the fact that they were undercutting the tension of the whole scene. Having said that much, however, Campbell's refusal to exhibit her body to the camera also lends a degree of balance and subtlety to the film that, in a strange way, enhances most of the highly pivotal sex scenes. However, seeing Theresa Russell get her clothes off for the camera was definitely not what we needed, and I am very thankful that she only does it once.

    The story is set in Blue Bay, an exclusive upper-class society somewhere in Florida. The film opens with shots of the natural environment there, which blend into the first dialogue sequence. Guidance counsellor Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillon in one of his few watchable roles) is in the process of introducing two police officers from the sex crimes department of the local precinct: Ray Duquette (Kevin Bacon) and Gloria Perez (Daphne Rubin-Vega). After the principal characters are introduced to the viewer, we go into the day that Kelly Van Ryan (Denise Richards), one of the most powerful heiresses of the community, accuses Sam of sexual assault. Soon, the questionable truth of her allegations take a back seat to the power of her mother, Sandra (Theresa Russell) and her enormous sway over every facet of society in Blue Bay. As she sets out to destroy Sam's life, the detectives eventually hear actual corroborating testimony from a young woman from a nearby poorer area of the city, who goes by the name of Suzie Toller (Neve Campbell). We soon learn that young Toller is not all she appears to be, but more on this later. As the film progresses, we are told that Kelly came to Suzie with the idea of framing Sam as a rapist. Both have convincing reasons for wanting to do such a thing to him: Kelly is jealous of all the other women, her mother included, in Blue Bay with whom she is competing for his affections. Suzie, however, has a much darker, sinister motive revolving around Sam's and Ray's individual mistreatments of her, a motive that seems to unfold more and more with every sequence she appears in. Without giving too much else away, I'll just say that Neve Campbell may not be well-suited to the role of Suzie Toller at all, but she puts in an interesting performance that I certainly would have been proud of even though I probably would have a lot more in common with her character.

    Plot-wise, this film is like a washing machine. Immerse yourself in it too deeply for too long, and it will make you sick with all the sharp turns and directional changes. John McNaughton, whose other credits include Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer and Mad Dog And Glory, seems quite in his element exploring the darker side of peoples' natures. In the hands of a director less competent in this area, Wild Things could have easily descended into the level of a farce. This film is definitely not for people who expect to be entertained without giving their brain a bit of a moderate workout, so don't show it to anyone who actually enjoyed the recent remake Godzilla. If you, like me, are one of the three percent of people in the world who have an IQ above 145, I must give you an extra bit of advice about this film: don't watch it with people who aren't. Listening to their constant running off at the mouth about plot details they don't fully understand at first, as I learned the hard way, is somewhat akin to jabbing a fork into your groin every two minutes. It might seem like fun in a masochistic way at first, but it soon gets painfully tiresome.

Transfer Quality


    This is generally a good video transfer, with only the most trivial problems that I didn't even notice until long after the first watching because I wasn't looking for them. It is presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, with 16x9 enhancement. Which is just as well, because having certain scenes ruined by a lack of 16x9 enhancement would have just sent me over the deep end. Having seen this film before a number of times in the theatre and on VCR, I can say that I am truly delighted with the DVD version. It is razor sharp at all times, with excellent shadow detail (as many sequences in the film demand) and a complete absence of low level noise. The colour was well-saturated and clear, with the vibrancy of all the sets (especially the well-loved pool scene) ridden for all it is worth. This DVD pretty much qualifies as a demonstration disc, in my terms.

    MPEG artefacts were happily absent from the presentation. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of very minor aliasing in venetian blinds, and some very slight telecine wobble. The film artefacts were virtually non-existent, although there did appear to be a very quick film spot in one corner at a point where I've forgotten it. You're probably going to be looking more closely at other things during this film, anyway. This DVD brings some of my favourite scenes in this film to the point of being so life-like that I honestly started to wish for a more interactive experience (smell-o-vision, anyone?).


    A choice of two audio tracks are presented on this DVD. They are both in English with 5.1 channels, and are basically a choice between MPEG sound and the standard Dolby Digital sound. In the sound selection menu, there is a third option labelled as "surround", which only pointed back to the MPEG 5.1 track rather than a third audio track. I am rather perplexed as to the usage of this third option in the menu. Perhaps Village Roadshow's quality control people were asleep at the switch during this point. According to some reports, the MPEG soundtrack is flagged as the default, although my player defaulted to Dolby. Both soundtracks are identical, although the MPEG soundtrack seems to have its volume raised a few notches for reasons I can only guess at. The dialogue was perfectly clear most of the time, although it takes some concentration to make out conversations during moments with high levels of ambient sound. Some of the scenes appeared to be very slightly out of sync, although this was never noticeable enough to detract from the overall experience.

    George S. Clinton's score music was well-suited to the on-screen action, especially the slower, more relaxed moments of the film. His score perfectly suits the mood of all the scenes which it accompanies, which makes me wonder if he's ever worked on the kind of films that are only sold on the shelves in Canberra. Some of the numbers bore a resemblance to scores from pornographic films I've long forgotten the names of, except it had quite a bit more class. The music does an admirable job of building an atmosphere, which helps sustain the interest just that little bit longer.

    The surround channels were frequently utilised for nearly all sounds, giving the film a very enveloping presence almost from start to finish. The bass channel was used well enough to sustain music and effects. This is a film that was just made for the format.


    The extras are extremely limited. The disc's cover states that Interviews and Extra Footage are present on this disc. They aren't.


    The main menu design is pleasant enough, but the scene selection menu is rather unwieldly.

Theatrical Trailer

    The theatrical trailer is presented in 1.78:1 ratio, with 16x9 enhancement and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. The aspect ratio appears to be incorrect for the trailer, although most of the images go by so quickly it doesn't make a lot of difference.

Cast Biographies

    Some rather limited cast biographies round out the extras. They are hard to read on anything less than an 80 centimetre screen, although the navigation is a much easier affair than the scene selection.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     I don't know about you, but I tend to only import discs from Region 1 so that I can get better formatting (see Starship Troopers for example). In spite of all the other things included with the Region 1 version, the formatting alone makes ours the version of choice.


    Wild Things is a rare movie in that it will give your mind something to do as well as your eyes. Thrillers don't come much better than this.

    The video quality is wonderful in spite of minor problems.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The extras are rather disappointing.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Dean McIntosh
January 23, 2000
Review Equipment
DVD Grundig GDV 100D with Euroconnector output
Display Sumsung 80cm, via S-video input
Audio Decoder Built-In
Amplification Sony STR-DE835
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer