4K UHD Review: Wild Things (Steelbook)

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John McNaughton started out the ’90s with one of the most brutal and ugly films with Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer. The film was actually made in 1985, but only played a few film festivals that were able to stomach the black and white nightmare. The MPAA refused to give it a rating lower than X no matter what McNaughton cut out. The film couldn’t even get a decent video deal. After Ebert raved about it during a “revival” screening at Telluride in ’89, the film played a few daring art houses in 1990 and proceeded to gross out audiences. McNaughton found himself getting director gigs at studios for “nicer” films. As the ’90s were coming to an end, McNaughton gave us another murderous film that had to be cut down since it was too spicy for an R rating. Wild Things promised a twisting tale of carnality and crime in sexy South Florida and it delivered.

Sam Lombardo (Tex‘s Matt Dillon) is the most popular teacher at Blue Bay High School with both the student and especially among their mothers. He’s a dashing figure who teachers sailing and student counselling. He’s helpful to uber posh student Kelly Lanier Van Ryan (The World Is Not Enough‘s Denise Richards) which is slightly awkward since he’d had a few romps with her mom (Bad Timing‘s Theresa Russell). One day Kelly drops by the teacher’s house to wash his car as part of a fundraiser. She goes inside to get paid and exits the house with a ripped shirt and a look of shock. She claims that Sam has attacked her. Sergeant Ray Duquette (Footloose‘s Kevin Bacon) who had already talked to the kids at the school about bad touching is brought in to investigate. He isn’t sure there’s a case until Suzie Toller (Scream’s Neve Campbell) talks about the time Sam got to her and used the same line as Kelly reported. Sam finds himself behind bars with his only hope at justice being a sleazy lawyer (Rushmore‘s Bill Murray). Is he really guilty of attacking his students? Or is there something bigger going on in the land of alligators?

Wild Things remains a glorious erotic thriller improved when the unrated edition arrived on VHS. The casting is key as we’re given two of the hot young stars of the late ’90s in Richards and Campbell willing to play such deceptive and frisky characters. Even better you get two hot actors from the ’80s getting to go sleezy in the everglades in Bacon and Dillon. An added touch is getting both Theresa Russell and Carrie Snodgrass (Diary of A Mad Housewife) as the mothers to the students is a special touch. Keeping the whole story just a touch off kilter is Bill Murray as a lawyer that must be the spiritual father to Saul Goodman. This is a cast that can handle the twisting plot that doesn’t fully get exposed until the end credits roll. Wild Things is a wild ride in a swampy land.

You can choose between the Original Theatrical version (108 minutes) or the Unrated Edition (114 minutes). There’s no real reason to see shorter cut. The extra scenes include more time in the pool with Campbell and Richards and extra end credit flashbacks that show Matt Dillon and Richards original “cute” meet. You’re denying yourself the full experience by watching the theatrical version that the MPAA approved. You can also choose between a 4K UHD and Blu-ray edition of the film. The Limited Edition Steelbook contains both discs and bonus items and is exclusively sold by Diabolik, Grindhouse and Zavvi.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The 4K UHD upgrade brings out the steaminess of the location and the performances. The audio is DTS-HD MA 5.1 to give you the twists from all speakers. There’s also the original uncompressed stereo audio if you want to feel like you’re in a cheap movie theater that didn’t spring for extra speakers. The movie is subtitled.

Exclusive new audio commentary by director John McNaughton and producer Steven A. Jones gives plenty of tales about how this twisted tale made it to the big screen.

Audio Commentary by director John McNaughton, cinematographer Jeffrey Kimball, producers Steven A. Jones and Rodney Liber, editor Elena Maganini and score composer George S. Clinton. They go in deep into the production including a Flipper connection. Clinton mentions the bass on the soundtrack was played by the late Mark Sandman of Morphine.

Interview with John McNaughton (26:20) has him admit that he needed to make a commercial film. He had hit a cold streak including a TV movie that he had yanked his name off. He found the script and did all it took to get the project. He goes into how he researched the film after he locked down the script. He gives praise to person that took him on a tour of Miami that gave him a sense of place as they finished up the script. He was from the South Side of Chicago, so he had no clue about the fabulous life in Florida.

Interview with Denise Richards (14:04) has her talk about going in two or three times to land the role. She had just finished doing Starship Troopers and wanted an opposite part from the SciFi character. She talks about her character’s manipulative nature. She wanted to play a character that you love to hate.

On Set Interviews (4:17) talks with cast and crew on the set before the original release. There’s snippets from behind the scenes. Kevin Bacon, Neve Campbell, Matt Dillon, Denise Richards, Bill Murray and McNaughton talk about the manipulations in the movie.

An Understanding Lawyer outtakes (0:27) are quite a few Bill Murray reactions in a scene.

Trailer (2:23) sets up the erotic nature of the crime at the core of the film.

Image Gallery has over color press photos.

Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new essays by Anne Billson and Sean Hogan

Double-sided fold-out poster with original poster and new art.

Six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproductions

Arrow Videos presents Wild Things. Directed by John McNaughton. Screenplay by Stephen Peters. Starring Kevin Bacon, Matt Dillon, Neve Campbell, Denise Richards, Theresa Russell, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Robert Wagner & Bill Murray. Running Time: 108 minutes & 114 minutes. Boxset Content: Has both Blu-ray and 4K UHD discs. Rating: R Rated & Unrated. Release Date: May 24, 2022.

Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.