Disturbing Behaviour (1998)

Directed By: David Nutter
Written By: Scott Rosenburg
Starring: James Marsden
  Katie Holmes
  Nick Stahl
  William Sadler
Disturbing Behaviour

Disturbing Behaviour is like a filmic time capsule of the late 90’s. It’s got that Kevin Williamson-inspired, oh-so-clever teen dialogue, a band of relatively likeable misfit characters and straightforward plot down to an art.

The students of Cradle Bay have been acting a little strangely recently. Instead of late night parties, drinking and the expected aberrant teenage behaviour, they’ve joined a club called the Blue Ribbons and have been knuckling down to schoolwork, respecting their elders and over-achieving. New kid Steve spots something is amiss right away and with the help of pseudo goth kids Rachel, Gavin and UV, sets about trying to get to the bottom of the sinister mystery surrounding Cradle Bay’s newly conformist student body.

The casting of Disturbing Behaviour is a little hit and miss. James Marsden does the clean-cut, square-jawed American shtick that we’ve become accustomed to seeing him do so well, Nick Stahl is good as the know-it-all, wise cracking stoner kid and veteran character actor William Sadler barely needs to exert any effort whatsoever in order to embody the simpleton janitor, albeit a wholly unnecessarily exaggerated performance. Katie Holmes plays against type as sultry, sniping goth girl Rachel and despite the fact that she looks the part, something is lacking, but the real travesty is Chad Donella as ‘pigmentally challenged’ UV, who chews through his lines as though he thinks he’s making Bill and Ted’s Body Snatcher Adventure. There are a few other familiar faces in the form of Bruce Greenwood, Katherine Isabelle and Steve Railsbeck but they’re mostly wasted in brief, throwaway roles.

The plot is ripped straight from classics like Invasion Of The Body Snatchers and The Stepford Wives so there are absolutely no marks for originality here. In fact, if those two movies were to get together and have a bastard love child, then Disturbing Behaviour would undoubtedly be it’s awkward teenage years. Aside from the fact that the focus of the story is teenagers, everything else about the movie possesses a nagging familiarity and although the story is handled quite well, there’s no getting away from the fact that Disturbing Behaviour is horror-lite; a film for kids who aren’t yet old enough to watch a proper horror movie.

There are a number of wasted opportunities and inexplicable additions to the plot in Disturbing Behaviour. The inclusion of a side-story about a dead brother is thoroughly glossed over, the fact that none of the teenagers parents seem remotely concerned about their children’s rapid behaviour alteration is baffling and the second half of the movie is stuffed with dialogue so cheesy, it’ll make your toes curl in embarrassment but overall, if you adjust your expectations before watching, you won’t be disappointed.

Despite a multitude of plot-holes, a thoroughly derivative and predictable story and some questionable performances, Disturbing Behaviour does what it’s supposed to do. It’s a movie about teenagers, for teenagers and for that, it can’t really be faulted. There are one or two pleasant surprises and it’s nice to be able to root for the ‘bad kids’ for a change but there’s not a lot about this movie that the average movie-goer won’t have seen a thousand times before. It’s not particularly memorable but it’s entertaining enough and there are certainly worse ways to spend an hour and a half.

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

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