One may ask, why can't it be both? It can't be both because you just can't be a psychological thriller and a horror film. Sure, people have tried, but I haven't seen it yet, and dollars to doughnuts, I've probably seen more films than you. Unfortunately, the writer and director of Disturbing Behavior didn't quite get this.
At least it focused mainly on being a teen vehicle. In Disturbing Behavior, instead of good kids going bad, bad kids are going good. Of course, having all seen our share of films with this plot, we know that they're being brainwashed.
Like all horror films, there really isn't any mystery or surprise to the film. Point A can figure Point B. You have your basic secluded setting: nice, suburban, and, of course, on an island only accessible by ferry.
Well, basically, the movie grudges along, trying to be good. That's fine. It tries to be funny and basically succeeds in that part. It tries to surprise and trick us, but basically fails in that respect. It has a hell of a soundtrack.
The thing that bugged me about the film was that, instead of accepting that it was a popcorn movie, it tried to be intelligent. For that, you may blame X-Files vets David Nutter and Scott Michael Rosenburg. It tries to be surreal, it tries to be intelligent, and it makes references that pass way over the heads of its target audience.
This basically puts a stake in the heart of the movie, killing what could have been a good teen flick, which still was, according to the majority of teens, a cool movie. This yet again proves Cynical Hollywood Thesis #132: "If you slap a good-looking girl, a teen-idol guy, and a good soundtrack on a film, and it will make up its incredibly meager budget." The soundtrack on this one is mostly punk metal, but includes some interesting additions, such as the 50s song "Accentuate the Positive." It also gives us the gift of Harvey Dangerfield's "Flagpole Sitta," the song of the 1998 summer that is basically gone but not forgotten.
The kicks I got in the film mostly came in the form of inside jokes. For instance, I was the only one in the theatre who noticed that Bruce Greenwood, the bad guy, was in the exact opposite position in the cult TV show Nowhere Man a few years back. Or the million references it put in to The Stepford Wives. Or the homage it pays to X-Files.
The performances are better than the average horror film, but the script isn't: cliches dot the movie and basically get on my nerves. The director tries to do film noir, but forgot how to somewhere along the line. Nick Stahl and Bruce Greenwood are the standouts of the film, although Holmes hones her natural talent to some degree.
This isn't all to say that Disturbing Behavior wasn't fun: it was. I enjoyed watching it, making fun of it, watching Katie Holmes not have to be the all-American girl with the SAT-level vocabulary she plays on Dawson's Creek (nipple and nose ring and all), but the film basically disappointed me. I wanted a paranoid thriller. I got Wes Craven.
Run time: 84 mins
In Theaters: Friday 24th July 1998
Box Office Worldwide: $17.5M
Distributed by: MGM Home Entertainment
Production compaines: Behavioral Problem Productions Ltd., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Village Roadshow Pictures, Hoyts Film Partnership, Beacon Communications
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 33%
Fresh: 12 Rotten: 24
IMDB: 5.5 / 10
Director: David Nutter
Screenwriter: Scott Michael Rosenberg
Starring: James Marsden as Steve Clark, Katie Holmes as Rachel Wagner, Nick Stahl as Gavin Strick, Steve Railsback as Officer Cox, Bruce Greenwood as Dr. Edgar Caldicott, William Sadler as Newberry, Katharine Isabelle as Lindsay Clark, A.J Buckley as Chug, Derek Hamilton as Trent, Terry David Mulligan as Mr. Clark, Susan Hogan as Mrs. Clark, Ethan Embry as Allen Clark, Tobias Mehler as Andy, Tygh Runyan as Dickie Atkinson, Crystal Cass as Lorna, Carly Pope as Abbey
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