The erotic thriller, at one point a staple of Hollywood churn has slipped by the wayside. In many ways the likes of Hitchcock touched on it before DePalma raised the ‘erotic’ part and finally, when it reached its zenith, the likes of Verhoeven and Adrian Lyne made it mainstream.
But these days it seems to have died an ice-picked related death. Along with many medium-budget R-rated films that have had to make way while Hollywood Executives count the mountains of cash generated by superheroes. This year’s Deep Water did nothing to encourage anyone there was still a market the erotic thriller.
So it is with huge joy that the always brilliant Arrow Films are releasing what this reviewer considers the Scream of erotic thrillers; Wild Things. Released as the erotic thriller craze of the ‘90s was nearing its (ahem) climax, Wild Things is both a homage, riff and full-blown beast all of its own.
Sure, likening it to Scream feels obvious given the presence of Neve Campbell but the way Wild Things both takes itself seriously while also sending up the genre is wonderfully dark and entertaining to witness.
Set in sun-drenched Florida the film follows high-school teacher Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillion) who finds himself accused of rape by his student Kelly Van Ryan (Denise Richards). Professing his innocence and hiring seedy lawyer Ken Bowden (Bill Murray) the case seems to be only going one way until key witness Suzie Toller (Campbell) reveals some key truths. And so begins a dissection of what is really going on behind the elite walled community of Blue Bay with Detective Ray Duquette (Kevin Bacon) leading the charge.
John McNaughton is clearly revelling in the whole concept of who you can trust in Wild Things, the film takes dark glee in twisting and turning before pulling the rug from beneath characters and audience alike. In many ways it’s like an airport novel, something you pick-up on a whim, know full well is seedy and a bit tacky but is such a page-tuner it’s impossible to put down.
And it all feels so methodically planned. This is intentional pulp, you think you know how it’s all going to pan out, you might even guess it but that doesn’t mean you’re not wholly invested in it. The presence of Murray as a cartoonish solicitor is the glaring sign-post that this is very much meant to be pocking fun at both the elite’s habit of consuming each other, the human appetite for scandal and the erotic thriller’s staple of being a bit soap opera.
The cast are all on cracking form. Dillion does stupidly cocky but somehow put-upon with a slick charm. Bacon is having the time of his life spitting lines of dialogue as the ‘bad cop’ and Denise Richards is so over the top temptress that had the genre persevered one can only assume she would have become a staple herself. But it’s Campbell who quietly steals the show. One minute playing a victim before turning the tables on everyone to become something all too familiar, something positively Hitchcockian. The Master would have a wry smile painted on his face throughout.
It might not be the pinnacle of erotic thrillers but Wild Things is without doubt one of the most fun. A twisted, trust no one thriller that will have you nodding with blissful satisfaction.
Wild Things is available on Limited Edition Blu-ray from Arrow Video from 23rd May 2022