‘It doesn’t matter if you’re not perfect…You will be’
Disturbing Behavior is a 1998 American science-fiction horror feature film about a small-town where the blue-ribbon gang seem to be upstanding teen citizens.
Directed by David Nutter (Game of Thrones; Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles; Trancers 4: Jack of Swords) from a screenplay by Scott Rosenberg (Jumanji: The Next Level; Venom; Con Air), the movie stars James Marsden (Into the Grizzly Maze; Straw Dogs; X-Men and sequels), Katie Holmes (Brahms: The Boy II; Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark; Batman Begins), Nick Stahl (Hunter, Hunter; 388 Arletta Avenue; Dead Awake), Steve Railsback and Bruce Greenwood (Doctor Sleep; Gerald’s Game; Batman: Under the Red Hood).
A teenager (James Marsden) who is the new kid in the town of Cradle Bay, Washington, stumbles across the sinister truth in the mad-science methods by which school administration transforms unruly youth into upstanding citizens.
Disturbing Behavior was a wide MGM theatrical release in 1998 from talents connected to American television’s phenomenally-popular-at-the-time The X-Files: director David Nutter, composer Mark Snow, actor Steve Railsback. It might have been a bit much to hope that paranormal lightning might strike twice with the youth-oriented theatrical chiller.
Virtually shock-free, this is a sort of I Was a Teenage Invasion of the Stepford Kid Snatchers. The setting is the island hamlet of Cradle Bay, outside Seattle (note the High Grunge fashions of the 1990s). New boy Steve (James Marsden) gets an amusing debriefing on the various high school cliques by schoolmate Gavin (Nick Stahl, whose smarty-pants persona is one of the movie’s brighter spots in Scott Rosenberg’s script, relatively speaking).
Among the peer groups, none is more threatening to these callow teens than the Blue Ribbons, a clean-cut cabal of cheerleaders, athletes and high-achievers, all attired in conservative, 1950s-style jackets and sweaters. Every once in a while a young nonconformist disappears, then resurfaces in the Blue Ribbons, re-groomed and lobotomised into smiling obedience.
And occasionally, often during sexual tension, a Blue Ribbon goes berserk and commits bloody murder, which the town police chief (Steve Railsback) duly covers up with school psychiatrist Caldicott (Bruce Greenwood). Scampering through school corridors and eerie clinics (which never seem to have classes in session or locks on the doors) Steve and his dwindling friends face the peril of being surgically brainwashed by Caldicott and his Clockwork Orange-inspired mind-control rig.
We can’t give away the plot’s secrets – because there are none. One knows exactly what’s going to happen next, in a script that plays like a teen-angst tale from the 1980s invaded by slasher clichés. The one frisson is the filmmakers’ attempt to tap into how far modern parents and educators will go to enforce rigidly wholesome values and keep surly offspring under control, to the point that mom/dad/teacher becomes the ultimate enemy.
In more innocent days, producer Herman Cohen made practically a whole career out of such a premise, starting with his I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) which still holds up entertainingly well, more so than this specimen. By the time Disturbing Behavior was released Scream and its immediate sequels had raised the bar a bit on the material in which attractive, fresh thespians delivered clever post-modern dialogue and get killed.
A low gore quota and meagre F/X may disappoint genre fans normally primed for this milieu. One chase sequence done to the tune of the Harvey Danger alt-pop hit ‘Flagpole Sitter’ has a manic energy that makes one wish all that came before and after were a little edgier. That and a line paying tribute to writer Kurt Vonnegut.
Charles Cassady Jr., MOVIES and MANIA
” …Disturbing Behaviour is just a generic teen horror movie which rather strangely comes up short on the horror. It’s not terrible but it is unimaginative in style and content making it ultimately forgettable.” The Movie Scene
“This is a rare case where predictability doesn’t necessarily equal boredom, if only because the breakneck pace all but prevents it. A double-edged sword if there ever was one, the quick pacing does allow the film to breeze by but also functions as a lobotomy, robbing the story of much of its depth.” Oh, the Horror!
“The story itself, while not screamingly original, does take some interesting turns as well, introducing a few intriguing twists as it runs through its fairly short 83 minutes. Yes, there are absolutely gaping plot holes that must be ignored to preserve the viewers’ sanity, but overall, Disturbing Behavior is entertaining, fun, and even better than good…” Rock! Shock! Pop!
“Unlike Scream 2, which kids the horror cliches, Disturbing Behavior pretends they still hold power. But the movie is light on shocks and not ever scary. It does, however, find a great way to illustrate Pink Floyd’s immortal line, “Hey! Teacher! Leave those kids alone!” Roger Ebert
Cast and characters:
James Marsden … Steve Clark
Katie Holmes … Rachel Wagner
Tobias Mehler … Andy Effkin
Nick Stahl … Gavin Strick
Steve Railsback … Officer Cox
Bruce Greenwood … Doctor Edgar Caldicott
Katharine Isabelle … Lindsay Clark
William Sadler … Dorian Newberry
Ethan Embry … Allen Clark
Terry David Mulligan … Nathan Clark
Susan Hogan … Cynthia Clark
A.J. Buckley … Charles ‘Chug’ Roman
Robert Moloney … Ferry Guy
Derek Hamilton … Trent Whalen
Dan Zukovic … Mr Rooney
Tygh Runyan … Dickie Atkinson
P.J. Prinsloo … Robby Stewart
Michelle Skalnik … Randi Sklar
Lalainia Lindbjerg … Kathy
Chad Donella … U.V. (as Chad E. Donella)
Natassia Malthe … Mary Jo Copeland
Crystal Cass … Lorna Longley
Chris Owens … Officer Kramer
Fiona Scott … Fiona – Blue Ribbon
David Paetkau … Tom Cox
Erin Tougas … Shannon
Ryan Taylor … Ryan – Blue Ribbon
Jay Brazeau … Principal Weathers
Brendan Fehr … Brendan – Motor Jock
Sarah-Jane Redmond … Miss Perkins
John Destry … Middle-Aged Man
Carly Pope … Abbey
Glynis Davies … Coupon Lady
Andre Danyliu … Roscoe
Gillian Barber … Judy Effkin
Stephen J. Lang … John (as Stephen James Lang)
Peter LaCroix … Mr Strick
Lynda Boyd … Mrs Lucille Strick
Daniella Evangelista … Daniella – Blue Ribbon
Suzy Joachim … Female Doctor
Doug Abrahams … Security Guard
Christopher R. Sumpton … Screaming Man
Jarred Blancard … Flossing Man
Kate Braidwood … Make-up Girl
Stephen Holmes … Toothbrush Boy
Mark Aviss … Bald Man
Julie Patzwald … Betty Caldicott
Stephen E. Miller … Frankie
Dee Jay Jackson … Assistant Principal
Kendall Saunders … Disrespectful Student
British Columbia, Canada
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
Audio: DTS | Dolby SR