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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 19.4%
Average: 7.46%
Pretty Bad: 11.19%
Total Crap: 24.63%

10 reviews, 74 user ratings

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Very Bad Things
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by Rob Gonsalves

"A dark-comedy classic in disguise."
5 stars

Like many truly challenging movies, "Very Bad Things" got atrocious reviews. Most critics seemed to have seen an entirely different movie from the one I saw; they misunderstood it, misread it, misrepresented it, and generally just were stupid about it. In approaching the film, they made two big mistakes, one of which is somewhat understandable, the other inexcusable.

The movie is a pitch-black comedy about a bachelor party gone terribly wrong. Kyle Fisher (Jon Favreau), a dispassionate yuppie, is about to marry his pushy fiancée Laura (Cameron Diaz), who has a serious wedding fixation. Before the ceremony, Kyle and a few buddies -- the shark-like real-estate agent Robert Boyd (Christian Slater), the uncommunicative mechanic Charles Moore (Leland Orser), and the brothers Adam and Michael Berkow (Daniel Stern and Jeremy Piven) -- go to Las Vegas for some rip-snorting oats-sowing. The menu includes cocaine and a stripper-prostitute (porn star Kobé Tai, moonlighting under the name Carla Scott) -- a recipe for disaster, as it turns out.

Which brings us to the excusable mistake that critics, and you, might make going into Very Bad Things. In its trailer and TV ads, the movie was sold as a zany hipster comedy, along the lines of Grosse Pointe Blank or Pulp Fiction, in which we're invited to laugh at bloodshed. As written and directed by Peter Berg, though, the movie is considerably darker and grimmer; its tone is probably closer to Happiness than to, say, There's Something About Mary. People are killed, carved up, and mangled -- the film could be called The Vegas Chainsaw Massacre. If we laugh at all, it's the sort of strangled, disbelieving laughter that's a natural response to a steadily worsening situation and the protagonists' desperate actions.

What's unforgivable, however, is many critics' assumption that Very Bad Things somehow approves of the events it depicts. Roger Ebert, for instance, managed to state that "the movie is not blatantly racist" while suggesting that it is. Why? Because some of the victims are minorities, and the victimizers are white. Uh ... yeah ... that's sort of how it's been throughout history, hasn't it? Berg, I think, is consciously placing his white, upper-middle-class men in a situation where they dispatch, and discard, minorities not of their class. What he has in mind, it seems, is a Swiftian satire on white yuppies -- it's American Psycho with five psychos.

Take the Christian Slater character, Robert Boyd. Slater plays him as an update of his J.D. in Heathers, the film Very Bad Things most resembles. Boyd is a fountain of justifications, moral slipperiness, and motivational corporate gibberish. The other four men are easily-led sheep, too worried about saving their own futures to think much about what they've done. (You'll notice that, unlike Ebert, I choose not to give away the entire plot.) Even the bride-to-be Laura is so tunnel-visioned about her wedding that she hardly even cares what her fiancé did in Vegas -- or cares to find out. The movie is about how middle-class ambitions can pile up and block your view -- it's about moral blindness, yet it was reviewed as if it were a cross between Porky's and Friday the 13th.

Which, on some level, it is: Berg doesn't shy away from the ugliness of his characters. Even when they start falling apart, shuddering with remorse and self-disgust, Berg keeps his distance (except for a terrific, paranoid bit of business at a gas station). Like a lot of actors turned director, Berg is a fine actor's director: Daniel Stern hasn't been this dead-on since maybe Diner, to which this film is almost a horror-movie sequel; Jeremy Piven hits some great, extreme notes near the end. Berg also has a strong command of visual mood, from the garish Vegas night life to the gore-spattered hotel room.

That "Very Bad Thing"s is nothing like the ads suggest is a pleasant surprise. Everything else in it is unpleasant -- as it's meant to be. Sometimes I wish critics would simply review what's on the screen, instead of using a movie as an excuse to vent about grievances that have nothing to do with the movie.

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originally posted: 12/28/06 14:21:36
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User Comments

7/27/18 Rick Savages the Facebook mentality. Couldn't stop laughing. 5 stars
9/16/17 morris campbell unpleasant & boring & point less pure trash 1 stars
5/20/13 Tim Sardonic, very dark, and misunderstood, the macabre humor grabbed me in a second viewing. 4 stars
7/05/09 mr.mike These things always lose steam towards the end, still well done. 4 stars
8/19/08 Shaun Wallner This Film was well made!! 5 stars
10/25/07 Mr SK Has to be seen at least twice... if not 3 or 4 times - great movie. 5 stars
12/28/06 ben_a I thought I was the only one who got this movie. Great movie! 5 stars
5/06/06 dionwr Haven't seen it 3 stars
5/02/06 Ryan_A I should probably watch this again... 3 stars
5/02/06 David Cornelius ----- 3 stars
5/02/06 HBS-SH paper st. mayhem 4 stars
4/13/06 joe arbuckle Even the 'normal' stuff is hilarious. Even better when you dont know the premise! Whizzers 5 stars
6/07/05 R.C.F. The longer I'm watching this one, the less I care what the whole absurd bloodbath is about. 1 stars
2/20/05 Jeff Anderson Sick insanity DONE RIGHT! Great performances, directing & script TRULY TRIUMPH!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
11/09/04 Mitch De Costa Very Bad Things - Not to be forgotten 4 stars
9/10/04 jeff was this supposded to be a comedy or horror flick?? 1 stars
6/24/04 the bride GO HOME YOU FUCKING MURDERER! 5 stars
2/19/04 MP Bartley FUCKING WHIZZERS!!!! 5 stars
10/20/03 Josh Standlee Christian Slater played the best damn psycho he could! Bravo! 5 stars
9/04/03 eddie it was good because i say so - BOOYAH 5 stars
8/26/03 AD fucking awful 1 stars
6/30/03 B Boring as hell. Not the least bit entertaining. 1 stars
4/01/03 Rebecca Hated it the 1st viewing; Loved it by the 3rd viewing 5 stars
3/16/03 123 a dark disturbing brutal fucked up movie with some characters 4 stars
3/10/03 Stevo very bad film. ok, predictable line, but this is SHIT 1 stars
7/19/02 Film Dude No Caligula, I will not cut my throat and die. 5 stars
6/09/02 Kyle Dark as fuck. 5 stars
4/19/02 R.W. Welch Black comedy that's too black to be a comedy; Aptly named. 2 stars
3/30/02 fjkdljskfds the most FRUSTRATING movie ever, and i LIKE dark comedy. wanted to walk out. 1 stars
2/28/02 Tiffany Thunderhurst Why waste Cameron Diaz on a role that Ashley Judd would envy? 2 stars
2/22/02 CCPunk PIece of shit movie with no understanding about what makes dark comedy still comedy 2 stars
11/16/01 Geto Smurf Now THIS is comedy. 5 stars
7/31/01 KA Fucking Wizzers! Wizzers! 4 stars
7/06/01 SBM Shocking and very messed up! Great if you can HANDLE & UNDERSTAND dark comedy! 5 stars
5/06/01 Louis Really fucked up 5 stars
3/28/01 Monster W. Kung Mediocre attempt at satire with tiresome cliches all over it. Plus, the end sucks. Badly. 2 stars
2/18/01 Soggy Bottom Boy Very Poor Taste. But it had a few (albeit sick) laughs, and an above average soundtrack. 4 stars
2/13/01 Jake Way too dark macabre for my taste. Though Stern was hilarious in scene about the Whizzers. 2 stars
9/03/00 Boyo You have to approach this knowing it's not totally serious. It's blackest of black comedy 5 stars
5/30/00 natasha funny parts overwhelmed by pointless murder, maiming, and dismemberment 2 stars
5/18/00 Richard Wright Gory, disgusting and morally dubious film without a witty or decent bone in its body. 1 stars
4/14/00 Pyro I was drunk, but it had nudity and sensless violence!! 5 stars
3/07/00 J. Alán Blankenship Deliciously deviant and grotesque...I loved every minute of it! 4 stars
2/11/00 Steve Layne I liked it better in the theatre, but I still think its a very entertaining black comedy. 4 stars
10/19/99 JonnyAngel Very Bad Movie (ha ha, that was too easy) 1 stars
9/16/99 mr. pink lesson learned: violence and shouting are not enough for a good dark comedy. 2 stars
8/10/99 Kat savage fun 5 stars
6/28/99 Steve Bashakus There's a big fucking difference between "very dark" and just plain shitty. Bite me. 1 stars
6/26/99 David Offensive is fine as long as it's funny...SHOUTING IS NOT FUNNY 1 stars
6/11/99 The Bomb 69 over the top in some places but funny in most 4 stars
3/17/99 Ah Dooey Not bad, but a really good warped movie. 5 stars
3/13/99 Cool Thing No guffaws, but many guilty chuckles. Enjoyed this immensely. 5 stars
2/28/99 MR HOLLYWOOD!! Very,Very Dark,more so than Pulp Fiction,some funny bits but very depressing. 4 stars
2/09/99 chuck-d damn. funny. laughed out loud for two hours 4 stars
1/12/99 cynthia truly disturbing. but very good.i would see again 5 stars
1/09/99 crc loved it. if you're a prude, you'll hate it. what's so dark about it? funnyfunny and unique 5 stars
1/03/99 Lauren Baker Okay, so, I got the "dark" part, but where did the "comedy" part come in?Run from this. 1 stars
12/24/98 Chip Sprague Funniest Movie Ever (If you can laugh at death) 5 stars
12/13/98 kozmic great movie for those who like to see how a situation can get shockingly worse,it was fun 5 stars
12/12/98 frank the most twisted movie i've ever seen. 5 stars
12/11/98 Daddy Rich I enjoyed it up until the very end. Other than that, pretty entertaining and funny. 4 stars
12/10/98 Bryan Incredibly hateful and unfunny movie! 1 stars
12/07/98 cyanide rush i almost fell over laughing on the way out of the theater(the little kid called him a gimp! 5 stars
12/06/98 Mr Showbiz Cameron Diaz is the film's only bright spot. 3 stars
12/04/98 Jeff C. It was poor. It got boring fast. It was fun to see CD as a total bitch. 2 stars
12/01/98 The Dude This movie was so fucking funny i almost pissed my pants thinking about it on the way home 5 stars
11/30/98 Johny Scores points with me for it's "screw-em if they can't take a joke" attitude 5 stars
11/24/98 Freyja Oh yeah, killing chicks while fucking them is fucking hilarious. har har! OK, it WAS funny! 2 stars
11/17/98 StenoHead Not at all for pussies. 4 stars
10/19/98 Aint-It-Cool I just saw a preview of Very Bad Things... oh my god... it rocked! 5 stars
8/28/98 Mister Whoopee Loved this film. Lots of great performances, great writing-directing from a debutant. 5 stars
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  25-Nov-1998 (R)


  04-Feb-1999 (R)

Directed by
  Peter Berg

Written by
  Peter Berg

  Christian Slater
  Cameron Diaz
  Jon Favreau
  Jeremy Piven
  Daniel Stern
  Jeanne Tripplehorn

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