Single Person’s Movie: Very Bad Things

It’s 2 a.m. and you awake with a jerk, alone in your fully lit apartment and still on the couch.

It’s 2 a.m. and you awake with a jerk, alone in your fully lit apartment and still on the couch. On TV, the credits of some movie you’ve already seen a billion times are scrolling by. It feels like rock bottom. And we know, because we’re just like you: single.

Need a movie to keep you company until you literally can’t keep your eyes open? Join us tonight when we pass out to Very Bad Things [starting @ 9:35 p.m. on Showtime Next]

Why we’ll try to stay up and watch it: Now that Star Trek has come out and blown our minds, the next film we plan on obsessing over is Todd Phillips’ The Hangover. We’ve been in frenzy over this thing since seeing the teaser trailer. (Bradley Cooper? A tiger? A toothless Ed Helms? Mike Tyson? Where do we sign up?) The ode to Las Vegas bachelor parties looks poised to be an instant classic; one of those “one crazy night” movies that combines Swingers, Old School and the Vegas scenes in Go into a relentless studio comedy. Of course, The Hangover isn’t the first film to mine this territory, and it probably won’t be the last: We only hope it ends up faring better than the perfectly titled Very Bad Things.

Released in 1998, Very Bad Things was positioned as a kissing cousin to the aforementioned Swingers, which by that time had become a must-see sensation in college dorms around the country. There was the presence of Jon Favreau, the Vegas setting, and, while Vince Vaughn was unfortunately absent, Christian Slater got onboard, doing the fast-talking Nicholson impression he does best. What could go wrong?

As it turns out: everything. Very Bad Things is one of the nastiest, meanest and most vile films we’ve ever encountered. With each passing atrocity, it becomes clearer and clearer that writer-director Peter Berg is filled with outright contempt for not only the characters he’s created, but for the audience as well. The film traipses into what we’d now refer to as Jody Hill Territory (himself the latest purveyor of this masochistic cinema; see: Observe and Report): Not only do the characters in Very Bad Things commit horrid acts, they, en masse, have horrible acts done to them. Calling this film “black comedy” doesn’t even do it justice: Very Bad Things is a Black Hole of the basest human emotions. There are probably snuff films that have more humanity.

When we’ll probably fall asleep: Of course, that’s not to say the first 25 minutes aren’t actually good! Mr. Berg, forever a talented filmmaker (especially when he’s aping Michael Mann in stuff like The Kingdom and Hancock), allows his opening scenes to blow along at a crisp and envious pace; it feels both fresh and assured, as if something great is brewing. This vibe is helped by the sturdy cast—Messrs. Favreau and Slater do the heavy lifting, but Daniel Stern and Jeremy Piven (pre-hair plugs), as warring brothers, steal the show. So despite our severe complaints with so much of Very Bad Things we’ll make it until 10 p.m., 25 minutes into the film, when, after a night of partying and drunken self-reflection, Mr. Piven’s character, Michael, accidentally kills a hooker and the movie goes completely off the rails. At the very least, the early checkout will allow us to watch the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy … y’know, on second thought, maybe Very Bad Things isn’t so bad after all. Single Person’s Movie: Very Bad Things