There comes a time in all our movie-watching lives, or for some of you, perhaps, there rarely does not come a time, when all we want to watch is some seriously trashy trash, some trash that’s not ashamed of what it is, that revels in its trashiness, that isn’t trying to be deep or profound or important, but at the same time isn’t purposely bland or doing all it can to please everyone in its total inoffensive mediocrity, the kind of trash that isn’t bad by accident, but isn’t bad as a purposeful joke, either, the kind of trash that’s proud of what it is, that brazenly proclaims “I am here to entertain you with salaciousness, vile behavior, outrageous plot twists, and scene chewing acting, and I’m going to do it with style!”
The ‘90s may be the ultimate decade for this kind of movie. It was a strange time. Money was everywhere. The internet was booming. The only thing anyone cared about politically was Clinton’s blowjob. Society was experiencing a kind of soul-sucking emptiness, and when one’s spirit has been sucked out, what does one seek to fill the hole with but crap? This is the decade that brought us Showgirls, after all.
And so, we come to two of the most outrageously trashy movies of that hopelessly empty, meaningless decade, two movies you’ll feel dirty for having watched, and dirtier still for having enjoyed. Let’s start with:
The Devil’s Advocate (’97)
This one stars Keanu Reeves as a brilliant attorney, so already you know good times are ahead. And it’s got Al Pacino, intent during the ‘90s on out-overacting himself with every successive picture, as the head of the no doubt entirely evil lawfirm that wants to recruit Keanu.
Keanu cross-examines a molested child, gets murderers acquitted, and when demons rape his wife (Charlize Theron), he has her institutionalized. Naturally the Devil is interested in hiring him. But as this movie is a piece of brilliant trash, there’s much more than that going on with the plot. I’d hate to spoil it, so I won’t give it all away.
Is this movie “good”? I don’t know. But I do know that there are writhing, naked demon women in it. Isn’t that enough?
It seems as though The Devil’s Advocate was treated as some kind of real, serious movie when it came out—like I was saying, the ‘90s, people were confused as to what to take seriously—and it was generally reviewed as such, which nowadays appears totally baffling. This movie is trash. Glorious, naked trash. And that’s it all it ever aspired to.
Wild Things (’98)
Speaking of naked, there’s a plenty of it in here. Wild Things is simply the epitome of trash. It stars Matt Dillon, Kevin Bacon, Neve Campbell, Denise Richards, Theresa Russell and Robert fucking Wagner, for god’s sake. There’s even an appearance by Bill Murray.
It begins with Dillon, a high school guidance counselor in Florida, being accused of rape by Richards and Campbell, two students. But it turns out they lied. They were just mad at him.
After that, every ten minutes or so there’s some new, ever more elaborate and outrageous plot twist, all of which almost but not quite actually make sense. To make sure you don’t start thinking too deeply about plot logic, there’s all the sex scenes to keep you distracted.
This movie is not about anything. It sheds no light on the human condition. It just is, in all its trashy glory. Like The Devil’s Advocate, it presented movie critics of the day with this problem of not knowing how to review it. They sort of enjoyed it, after all, but it was just so damn trashy. How do you praise something you don’t respect?
On Rotten Tomatoes Wild Things scores a 64%, and The Devil’s Advocate gets a 66%. Which if you’re taking these movies seriously, sure, that seems safe. But when you look at these movies for what they are, you realize that they are trash of the highest order. Get yourself a bottle of something cheap and highly alcoholic and enjoy!