Very Bad Things (1998) [Blu-Ray]

Director Peter Berg is a man of varying flavors of cinematic outputs. He’s been a working man’s director more than an artist, but some of his work has been very good, while his other films have been complete dreck. Falling squarely in the “dreck” peg, there’s one of his earlier efforts, 1998’s “Very Bad Things.” It’s pitch black confused mess that takes us through a spiraling vortex of violence, as a group of emasculated men struggle to maintain their lives after a bad night involving a prostitute, a bachelor party, and disturbing murder. 

Kyle (Jon Favreau) and four friends set off for a night in Las Vegas before Kyle gets married. But things go wrong when a prostitute is skewered on a coat hook as she entertains one of the pals, Michael. Friend Robert (Christian Slater) keeps his head, and goes so far as to murder a security guard who threatens to discover their little accident. The next step is to dismember and bury the bodies and then to return to LA and pretend nothing happened. As guilt and nerves set in they realize they’ll do anything to keep their secret, as Kyle’s bride-to-be Laura (Cameron Diaz) will do anything to walk down the aisle.

Berg’s worst crime here is that “Very Bad Things” is painfully tonally confused and scatterbrained. It never really knows what it wants to be right through the very end. Sometimes it’s a dark comedy, sometimes it turns in to a pure horror movie, other times it becomes a dark satire, and then it turns in to a murder mystery. It even dips in to drama every now and then with a strange focus mid-way on the conflict between the brothers played by Jeremy Piven and Daniel Stern. Berg can never get a grasp on what exactly he’s going for, so moments intended for comedy are just disturbing, while there never seems to be a point to the whole shebang save for some semblance of what I assume was supposed to be a commentary on suburban life.

“Very Bad Things” could be salvaged if it stayed the course exploring the whole madness of concealing a freak murder. But it completely goes off the rails once it becomes apparent that the whole premise runs out of steam the minute we leave the hotel room. The cast is absolutely wasted, as literally everyone chews the scenery, including Christian Slater who, I’m assuming is the film’s villain, but it’s never clarified for us. His motivations for concealing the murder become gradually more muddled as the film progresses to the point where he seems to be committing murders just because the writers are desperately racing to the climax. “Very Bad Things” is easily Berg’s worst cinematic output. It’s a dry heave of pitch black comedy that’s awful, nasty, unpleasant, rotten and downright unfunny.

The Blu-Ray from Shout! Select includes an audio commentary featuring podcasters Witney Seibold and William Bibbiani. There’s a seventeen minutes segment of   Interview with Jeremy Piven, who details his personal history with Peter Berg, sharing how “Very Bad Things” was based on a true story and how his role was initially intended for Adam Sandler before Berg called for him

Piven covers most topics involving the film including a few memories from the shoot, recollection of fan interactions who’ve helped keep the film alive. There’s a weird twenty one minutes interview with Daniel Stern who discusses working with the cast and crew, the movie’s demented humor, embracing Berg’s weird sense of humor, and his legacy with the film and the film’s small fan base. Finally, there’s a still gallery of film stills, publicity shots, and BTS snaps, and finally the original theatrical trailer.