Release Date(s)1998 (May 24, 2022)
Studio(s)Mandalay Entertainment/Columbia Pictures (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: B+
At the peak of 90s erotic crime thrillers was Wild Things, a wildly sleazy but slick piece of double, triple, quadruple, and even quintuple-crossing shenanigans featuring two of the most popular young women in show business at the time: Denise Richards and Neve Campbell. Richards had just finished working on Starship Troopers (which is oddly perfect being that Paul Verhoeven is synonymous with the genre) and Neve Campbell was hot after appearing in Scream and Party of Five, the latter a very popular TV show at the time. Director John McNaughton (Mad Dog and Glory and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) helmed the film, infamous for its kissing scene in a pool between Campbell and Richards, which was what the majority of audiences were talking about when the film was released. Add to that a cast that includes Matt Dillon, Kevin Bacon (who also served as a producer), Theresa Russell, Daphne-Rubin Vega, Carrie Snodgress, Robert Wagner, and Bill Murray, and you have one the most star-studded, well-acted, suitably salacious, and even unintentionally comedic thrillers of the era that holds up almost as well as its contemporaries.
Deep in South Florida is the Miami suburb of Blue Bay, an upscale neighborhood wherein the wealthy and less fortunate tend to cross paths, but never socially. Cut to the local high school where rich girl Kelly (Richards) and trailer park dweller Suzie (Campbell) attend with guidance counselor and local heartthrob Sam (Dillon). Amid the daily goings-on, Kelly reveals to her mother Sandra (Russell) that she was raped by Sam. During the investigation into this claim, Suzie admits to Sergeant Duquette (Bacon) and Detective Perez (Rubin-Vega) that she too was raped by Sam; but at the eventual trial, Sam’s lawyer Kenneth Bowden (Murray) cross-examines Suzie and forces her to admit that she lied. Sam and Bowden win a multi-million dollar settlement that goes into a trust fund for Kelly. In the aftermath, Duquette suspects that Sam, Suzie, and Kelly are up to something else, and continues to keep a close eye on them as tensions rise.
Wild Things was shot by cinematographer Jeffrey L. Kimball on 35 mm film with Panavision cameras and anamorphic lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 2.40:1. Arrow Video brings both the theatrical and unrated versions of film to Ultra HD sourced from Sony’s 4K restoration of the original camera negative, which resulted in a 4K Digital Intermediate. The image was then graded for high dynamic range in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, with final color approval by McNaughton. This is a beautiful presentation that not only gains added dimension because of the increase in pixels, but also further enhanced by deepened black levels. Shadows are now far more detailed, and the color palette in general is richer thanks to the wider gamut of HDR (with Dolby Vision having an obvious edge). In particular, the swampland sunrises boast impressive shadow detail and saturation, exhibiting all of the heat and humidity of the region. Grain is moderate and mostly tight, though it spikes a couple of times during transitions. Everything appears clean and stable throughout, with well-balanced contrast. This is a near-perfect presentation.
The audio is included in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (the insert artwork states that an uncompressed stereo audio track is included, but isn’t) with optional subtitles in English SDH. This is a soundtrack that’s all about environment, using placement and panning effectively and allowing ambience to fill the surrounding space to envelop listeners in the world of South Florida. George S. Clinton’s noir-driven score is given just the right amount of low frequency, but never at the expense of the other elements. In fact, bass is used sparingly, mostly to punctuate rather than rattle the room. Dialogue exchanges are clear and precise as well. It’s definitely a track that’s more about subtlety than cacophony.
The following extras are included on the disc:
- Audio Commentary by John McNaughton and Steven A. Jones
- Audio Commentary by John McNaughton, Elena Maganini, Rodney M. Liber, Steven A. Jones, George S. Clinton, and Jeffrey L. Kimball
- John McNaughton on Wild Things (HD – 26:20)
- Denise Richards on Wild Things (HD – 14:04)
- On-Set Interviews (SD – 4:18)
- “An Understanding Lawyer” Outtakes (Upscaled SD – :27)
- Trailer (Upscaled SD – 2:23)
- Stills Gallery (HD – 44 in all)
The first audio commentary features director John McNaughton and producer Steven A. Jones. It’s a new track that’s a bit springboard, meaning that they simply watch the film and comment on it as they watch it together. There’s some overlap of the same information when it comes to the other extras and there are gaps of silence, but it can be an educational listen. The second audio commentary features John McNaughton, editor Elena Maganini, producers Rodney M. Liber and Steven A. Jones, composer George S. Clinton, and cinematographer Jeffrey L. Kimball (Kimball doesn’t show up until around the 35:18 mark). The track was originally recorded for the film’s 1998 DVD release and it’s very informative and energetic. Best of all, the contributors manage not to talk over each other too often, allowing each other to take turns (avoiding a personal pet peeve of mine).
In the new interview with John McNaughton, he discusses receiving the script, exploring South Florida for research, being transgressive, having issues with nudity in the editing room, corrupted characters, the significance of the opening credits sequence, the casting process, shooting nudity, dealing with the script and the actor’s interpretations of their characters, the crew developing labyrinthitis on the set, how he feels about the film now, and some of his favorite moments from filming. In the new interview with Denise Richards, she talks about getting the part, her approach to her character, being apprehensive at first, working with the cast and crew, shooting in Florida, how grateful she is for being in the film, and what she thinks of the film now. The On-Set Interviews features EPK material containing interviews with Kevin Bacon, Neve Campbell, John McNaughton, Matt Dillon, Denise Richards, and Bill Murray. The outtakes feature a brief set of alternate takes from Bill Murray while the Still Gallery contains 44 promotional stills.
Wild Things on 4K Ultra HD sits in a black Amaray case alongside six color promotional still cards (not lobby cards, which is what Arrow Video traditionally supplies). Also included is a double-sided poster featuring new artwork by Sam Hadley on one side and the original theatrical poster artwork on the other (the insert replicates this); and a 60-page booklet containing cast and crew information, the essays Let’s Twist Again: Sex, Murder and the Late 20th Century Hollywood Thriller by Anne Billson and Shadows in the Sunshine: Wild Things and Florida Noir by Sean Hogan, transfer information, and a set of production credits. Everything is housed within sturdy cardboard packaging featuring the same new artwork. A couple of deleted scenes from the original DVD release and the TV version are not included, nor are the additional EPK interviews from the German DVD release. Everything else is otherwise accounted for.
Wild Things was one of the more respected erotic thrillers of its era critically, which was unusual for the time as most critics didn’t quite understand the genre. Today it’s remembered fondly by those who were there when it was released, particularly on home video when young men of a certain age could rent it and appreciate it in other ways. Ahem. Regardless, it’s still a film full of surprises—some that make sense and play well, and others that are laughable. It’s all a part of the film’s lasting charm. Arrow Video’s presentation is stellar with a nice extras package to go with it, making this an essential upgrade of the previous Blu-ray release.
- Tim Salmons