Wild Things

Probably the last gasp of the 90s erotic noir, and while the film looks sleazy on the surface, it's actually redeemed by the increasingly ridiculous plot twists that start popping up half-way through, which show that basically no one is what they appear to be on the surface. Characters who you are set up to believe are victims turn into master manipulators, and vice versa. And while the portrayal of Denise Richards and Neve Campbell is exploitative, the film refuses to condescend to them, and hands ultimate victory to the latter.

The film is notorious for the scenes in which Richards and Campbell make out, although the film is at its queerest when Kevin Bacon surprises Matt Dillon in the shower – and there's a brief flash of full-frontal male nudity. Apparently, and enticingly, Dillon was supposed to join Bacon in the shower and kiss him, revealing a sexual relationship between the two men. Depressingly the financiers quashed the idea, although Bacon (who is also the film's producer) was pretty attached to it. Ultimately it's left as subtext, but it would have been a neat mirroring of the relationship between Richards and Campbell, and would enforce the prevailing mood that sexuality is a mutable thing in the Florida heat.

The director John McNaughton wanted to make the setting as beautiful as possible, to contrast with the beastly nature of the people within it. The film takes great pains to establish the contrast between the swamps swimming with alligators and the wealthy society living next door, with Matt Dillon's character sashaying comfortably through both environments. The metaphor is probably most acute with the crocodile tamer McNaughton keeps returning to – a nod to the attractions and dangers of playing with wild things. The film's conceit is that humanity has not sloughed off the evolutionary imperative to eat or be eaten – if anything our ability to dissemble makes us more ruthless. It's telling that McNaughton wanted to make a sequel with the kids of the characters who emerged on top in this film, underlining the macabre notion that the survival of the fittest would create ever more gruesome human beings.

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