Disturbing Behavior [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (24th April 2016).
The Film

Horror started on a downward trend once the 90's rolled around – a descent that has, at least theatrically, continued on through present day – with only a handful of truly memorable movies produced during that time. The early 90's were something of a wasteland until 1996, the year of Wes Craven’s “Scream”. Once that watershed slice of teen horror cinema took hold, it had a rippling effect that lasted for the next few years. Some films chose to be clones of “Scream” by sticking with the slasher angle, but a few tried to get outside that box while still maintaining a certain style that worked so well for Wes. For me, this was my heyday of watching just about anything horror in theaters every chance I had. “Disturbing Behavior” (1998) came out during the summer before my senior year – prime time - yet even then I avoided seeing it because it just looked… lame. And now, 18 years later I have finally seen the film and it appears my younger self was correct – the movie is pretty lame. This is such a bland, forgettable film that I’m struggling to remember salient plot details for this review, and I watched it only a few days ago.

After a requisite opening kill, in which jocks are established as a force to be reckoned with and the town’s top cop is very aware, the film introduces up to Steve (James Marsden). He’s the new kid in Cradle Bay, a picturesque little hamlet in Washington. His family moved here from Chicago after his brother Allen (Ethan Embry, who barely factors into the film) committed suicide. Everyone is hoping for a fresh start. The first friends Steve makes after arriving at school are of the stereotypical miscreant variety. Gavin (Nick Stahl), a conspiracy theorist; U.V. (Chad E. Donella), an albino played by a guy who is clearly not an albino; and, Rae (Katie Holmes), playing the bad girl popular guys in the film pretend they don’t want to bang. Gavin tells Steve he has a theory about the jocks, collectively known as “Blue Ribbons”; he thinks they’re evil. Steve isn’t so sure.

He starts getting sure-er after noticing “problem” classmates who are considered outsiders by the Blue Ribbons are suddenly showing up at school looking prim and proper, joining up with their former enemies. Steve suspicions are somewhat confirmed when Dorian (William Sadler), the janitor, tells him that his own research has led him to believe the town’s kids are reprogrammed drones incapable of independent thought thanks to techniques of which he is still unaware. Dorian inadvertently stumbles upon a solution to his own problem, however, when he created something called the “E-Rat-itcator” to help him kill local vermin for cash. It turns out the device also causes the hive-minded Blue Ribbons to get a major headache, disrupting their ability to smash faces and wreak havoc.

The Blue Ribbons want Steve to be part of their group, but he rejects their offer. When Dr. Caldicott (Bruce Greenwood) shows up at his home, it becomes clear that the jocks targeted him for a reason: his parents are in on it, too. Steve and Rae team up with whatever friends they have remaining, stopping at every exposition point along the way to a big finale wherein it’s another “us vs. them” fight before an expected conclusion complete with sly wink ending.

This movie is just boring. There isn’t any other way to put it. As far as teenage horror films go, none of the cast or actors here are good enough to distract from a weak story. As an "R" rated movie, it never goes far enough to outweigh the negatives. There are no big FX moments or memorable kills. I’m not even sure why this is "R" rated in the first place, although I think there might have been boobs. Maybe language? Either way, this could have been cut down to a "PG-13" and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

The unfortunate thing is the studio more or less took this project away from director David Nutter, forcing recuts that trimmed the running time down to a scant 83 minutes. Most of the excised footage is included here, as it was on previous DVD releases, with the cut moments actually adding quite a bit to the overall story. Fans edits reincorporating that footage exist, but if Nutter had the chance to do a proper Director’s Cut then maybe this could have been a bit better. Subplots, such as Steve’s brother’s suicide, don’t go anywhere in Theatrical Cut.

I’m also bummed out that Mark Snow did the music here and it is just as forgettable as the film itself. This sounds like every other teen horror score and if Snow had gotten a little more creative it might have helped the film.

Sometimes I enjoy digging up these 90's relics and finding they’re just as enjoyable today as they were twenty-some-odd years ago, and in some case even more so. But “Disturbing Behavior” never looked like a particularly interesting film; it’s a “Stepford Wives” (1975) derivative for the teenage crowd. If you want to take a trip down nostalgia lane, or if you’re truly looking to be educated on some 90's horror cinema, there are better avenues to take.

Video

The 1.85:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded image gets a literally night & day difference transfer, with nighttime scenes appearing grain-heavy and lacking in fine details. Daylight shots, however, show off a fair amount of detail, with pleasing color saturation and much stronger definition overall. Black levels are a bit hazy and inconsistent, with some minor compression issues cropping up during very dark scenes.

Audio

An English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track (48kHz/24-bit) is the proper choice for audio here, though the included 2.0 stereo track should suffice as well. The track is surprisingly robust at times, displaying a greater sense of depth and presence than expected. Dialogue comes through clean and clear and there are no obvious issues with the track. Crank it up and revel in all the horribly dated 90's music. Subtitles are included in English.

Extras

This release is light on extras, but they’re at least good ones: an audio commentary, deleted scenes and a theatrical trailer.

Director David Nutter’s audio commentary ported over from MGM’s DVD finds a new home here. The soft-spoken helmer discusses the expected topics, while also touching upon what scenes wound up being cut and why.

A big ol’ reel of deleted scenes (SD) with optional audio commentary by director David Nutter runs for 24 minutes and 42 seconds.

The film’s theatrical trailer (1080i) runs for 2 minutes and 8 seconds.

Packaging

The single disc comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keep case.

Overall

The only thing “disturbing” about this film is how amazingly boring it is, with virtually no tension and absolutely zero true scares. Unless this happens to be one of those “rose-tinted titles” from your youth, I’d suggest finding something more engaging to view.

The Film: C- Video: B- Audio: B Extras: C Overall: C

 


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