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Wild Things (1998, Neve Campbell, Denise Richards)

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Memorably described as ‘Hitchcock 90210′, John McNaughton’s classy thriller uses the master’s template to craft a tale of betrayal. The sedate Florida town of Blue Bay awakens to find local teacher Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillon) at the centre of a rape trial after allegations by young students Kelly Van Ryan (Denise Richards) and Suzie Toller (Neve Campbell).

The local police remain sceptical, as does ambulance-chasing lawyer Ken Bowden (Bill Murray). They are proved right when, under oath, Suzie breaks down and admits she fabricated the story to humiliate Sam, who is set free and wins a multi-million settlement from Kelly’s wealthy socialite mother Sandra (Theresa Russell). Disturbed by the happy ending, local cop Ray Duquette (Kevin Bacon) starts to harass the two women as suspects in an elaborate sting orchestrated to defraud Sandra. When Lombardo resurfaces and starts playing Svengali to the girls, Duquette’s doubts begin to grow, while all around him the forces of duplicity and vengeance are closing in…

Leaving behind the hyper-realism of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, McNaughton graduated into a $30 million budget and cover girl cast. But beyond the superficial glamour of his semi-naked co-stars and their troilist adventures, there’s an intelligence at work creating the film’s central paradox: the more physically perfect the character, the uglier their morality. Likewise, Stephen Peters’ script snakes through numerous double-crosses, leaving the plot less than watertight until the coda – in the space usually reserved for out-takes – in which the characters explain their actions.

The director’s quest for credibility – built on his belief that ‘Real people really do some of these stupid things’ – saw Lombardo’s trial take place in the same courtroom which handed Manuel Noriega a 40-year sentence. An unexpected slice of reality also disturbed production when a river shoot was delayed by the discovery of a waterlogged corpse, which was tethered to the dock until filming was completed the same day.

Two less than illustrious sequels followed in the shape of Wild Things 2, Wild Things: Diamonds in the Rough.

production details
USA | 108 minutes | 1998

Director: John McNaughton
Script: Stephen Peters,

cast
Denise Richards as Kelly Lanier Van Ryan
Neve Campbell as Suzie Marie Toller
Matt Dillon as Sam Lombardo
Kevin Bacon as Sergeant Ray Duquette
Dennis Neal as Art Maddox
Bill Murray as Kenneth Bowden
Theresa Russell as Sandra Van Ryan
Jeff Perry as District Attorney Bryce Hunter
Robert Wagner as Tom Baxter
Daphne Rubin-Vega as Detective Gloria Perez
Eduardo Yáñez as Frankie Condo
Jennifer Taylor as Barbara Baxter
Cory Pendergast as Jimmy Leach
Marc Macaulay as Walter
Toi Svane Stepp as Nicole
Diane Adams as School Secretary
Paulo Benedeti as Kirk
Ted Bartsch as Bailiff
Leonor Anthony as Ken’s Secretary
Antoni Corone as Police Chief
Robert Deacon as Prisoner
Anthony Giaimo as Dave
Manny Suarez as Georgie
Janet Bushor as Barmaid
Gina LaMarca as Hooker
Nancy Duerr as Reporter #1
Margo Peace as Reporter #2
Keith Wilson as Reporter #3
Nelson Oramas as Policeman #1
Michael Dean Walker as Policeman #2
Jesse Muson as Policeman #3
Kimberly Lamaze as Policewoman #1
Rebecca White as Policewoman #2
Victoria Bass as Judge

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