Wednesday, March 16, 2016

DISTURBING BEHAVIOR (1998) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: March 22nd 2016 
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1, 2Stereo .0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: David Nutter
Cast: Bruce Greenwood, Ethan Embry, Katharine Isabelle, Katie Holmes, Nick Stahl, Steve Railsback, James Marsden, William Sadler

Synopsis: In the halls of Cradle Bay High School, something sinister is happening… something dark… something disturbing. Sure, the "Blue Ribbons" – the clique that's at the top of the food chain at Cradle Bay – appear perfect in every way. But underneath their clean-cut, well-mannered facades lurks a shocking secret – one that a group of Cradle Bay High's outsiders and rebels must uncover in order to save their school, their town... and their own lives.

Not sure why but I always thought this movie was an erotic thriller of some sort along the lines of Wild Things so I just never made time to watch it, but since it landed on my doorstep I decided to give it a watch. I am pleased to see that I was wrong about what sort of movie this is,  what it is is a teen sci-fi thriller not too dissimilar from something akin to The Faculty, wherein teens at the local school begin to change is dramatic way, assimilating to a certain preppie way of thinking, but the origins this time out are not alien in nature, but this turns out to be a decent '90s teen riff on something along the lines of The Stepford Wives, as burnouts are transformed into straight-a student who go a little nuts when they get turned on. 

A year after the death of his brother teen Steve Clark (James Marsden, X-Men) and his family move to the island community of Cradle Bay, a nice place with a good school, the sort of place where the usual clicks apply. Case in point we have the "Blue Ribbons", a group of A-students who are popular, the usual array of jocks and pom-pom shakers who look down and frown upon the alternative culture kids at school. If you're a stoner, burnout or grunge-afflicted teen you are cannon-fodder for the true blue bullies who love to give the alternative kids a lot of grief, These burnouts and waste-oids are the ones that new-kid Steve finds himself hanging with, namely a trio of losers named Strick (Nick Stahl, Sin City), U.V. (Chad E. Donella, The Final Destination), and Rachel Wagner (Katie Holmes, The Ice Storm). Stahl is pretty great as the would-be leader of the misfits teens, his character offers a memorable monologue as he gives Steve a verbal tour of the class system at the school. His sidekick U.V. is slightly less memorable, but a young Katie Holmes gives off some serious sexual heat as the bad girl, I've never thought much of Holmes but damn if she didn't stir me up a bit, but those stoner-grunge girls of the '90s always did it for me. Also notable is the appearance of a pre Ginger Snaps (2000) Katharine Isabelle as the younger sister of Marsden's character.

I have always heard this movie described as an extended version of an X-Files episode and that's not too far removed from the truth, shot up North in the Land of Maple Syrup the film shares an aesthetic that was popular on TV and in teen movies of the time, plus director David Nutter was a veteran of the X-Files himself having directed several episodes. The science fiction element comes by way of the school psychologist, Dr. Caldicott (Bruce Greenwood, Steve from Cincinnati) who runs the Blue Ribbon program at the school, a program that somehow turns burnouts into icy A-student preppies overnight, and with that revelation things begins to smell rotten in the village of Cradle Bay. Dr. Caldicott  is surgically molding the Cradle Bay teens into perfect students, but aside from the usual teen-asshole behavior one might associate with the over privileged and elite the students begin succumb to homicidal tendencies when they become aroused by the opposite sex. The fat that an aroused teen is a dangerous things is certainly no shocker, but these horny kids take it a bit too far, though the gore is kept in the shadows, there's not much here for a gore hound.

Disturbing Behavior holds up pretty swell for a late-nineties teen thriller, helped by a strong cast of young Hollywood hopefuls who have since gone onto varying degrees of success, spearheaded by a young James Marsden, someone I like but don't think he ever landed the right role, at least not the one that would propel him to stardom. I don't exactly love his turn as Cyclops in Bryan Singer's X-Men movies, but I do sort of love him in The Box. This might be my favorite Nick Stahl Role, too. Well-written and funny, but neutered to a degree when the movie studio took the film away from director Nutter and re-edited it, but his performance shines through the hackneyed edit. Holmes as the dark teen cutey makes for a good love interest, she doesn't get a lot to chew on but her top-shelf talent shines through just the same. The movie also has appearances from William Sadler (Tales from the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight) as a school janitor, the village idiot who is aware of the dark side if Cradle Bay and is doing something about it, and keep an eye out for Steve Railsback (Lifeforce) as the local sheriff who turns a blind eye to the carnage the Blue Bloods inflict on the burnout teens, his role doesn't add up to much, but it is always a blast to see Railsback onscreen, even in a nothing role.

Disturbing Behavior arrived on Blu-ray from Scream Factory in the original 1.85 aspect ratio with a new 1080p HD transfer looking pretty good all the way around, it is not the most skin-pore porn high definition image but it is decently clear with some modest depth and the skin tones look accurate It comes with choice of English language DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 and Surround 5.1 with some good atmospheric use of the surrounds, the '90s alternative-rock soundtrack . Special features include an audio commentary from director David Nutter, a half-hour of deleted scenes and the original theatrical trailer for the movie.

Special Features
- Audio Commentary By Director David Nutter
- Deleted Scenes and Alternate Ending with Optional Director Commentary (25 Mins) 
- Theatrical Trailer (3 Mins) 

If you enjoyed the teen sci-fi thriller The Faculty there's bound to be something here for you to love, a fun if slightly stilted teen riff on The Stepford Wives with some good sci-fi thrills wrapped-up inside a clever script with a very nineties-centric soundtrack highlighted by the inclusion of Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta", which was a song you could escape on '90s alternative radio. The movie is horribly dated by the ninetis fashions and music, but just as I am nostalgic for '80s horror there are probably a lot of '90s horror fans who love this movie more than I ever could, but this was still a fun watch and the new Blu-ray from Scream Factory is sure to please fans of the movie, and maybe win over a few newcomers. 2.5/5