Saturday, 8 March 2014

Disturbing Behavior (1998)

Disturbing Behavior is a film that I have a lot of fond memories of. It came along when I was just starting to upgrade my movie collection from VHS to DVD, the trailer was a great one, and it just kept intriguing me until I could finally get my hands on a copy. Of course, almost inevitably, I was left a bit disappointed when I finally got to see it, but a recent rewatch actually shows that it holds up as one of the better teen thrillers to come along in the '90s. It may be slick, and it may Katie Holmes failing at being a bit tough and edgy, but it's also impressively subversive throughout.

James Marsden plays Steve Clark, the new kid in town (with his younger sister, played by Katharine Isabelle), a young man who stands almost at the exact halfway point between the more rebellious kids and a group of teens who are so well-behaved that it's spooky. When he's warned about events int he local area by Gavin Strick (Nick Stahl) he shrugs it off as paranoia, the kid obviously smokes too much weed, but that doesn't spoil their friendship, especially when he gets to spend time with Rachel (Holmes). Unfortunately, it turns out that Gavin is the only one who realises the horrible truth of what's going on, and before you can say "Stepford teens" things get dangerous for Steve and Rachel.

Written by Scott Rosenberg, and directed by David Nutter, this is a film that contains a surprisingly high number of really great moments, many of them jarring nicely with the rest of the teen thriller framework. Even the opening sequence, which starts out like so many other teen movie moments, takes a very dark turn, and should clue viewers in to the fact that they're about to watch something that may not be as advertised. And the scene with Lorna Longley (Crystal Cass) trying to seduce Steve is one that won't be forgotten any time soon.

Marsden is just fine in the lead role, although he's never been leading man material (sorry to say, I like the guy but it's true). Holmes is okay, I guess, but a bit laughable at times with her desperate attempt to portray someone cool and tough. Stahl is the highlight, as sweet and likable as he is jittery and helpless. The rest of the young cast, including Cass, Isabelle, A. J. Buckley and Chad Donella all do fine work.The adults, including Bruce Greenwood, Steve Railsback and William Sadler, are all good, with the latter particularly amusing in his role (a man who knows a lot more than he lets on).

You may not end up liking Disturbing Behavior as much as I do, but I recommend giving it a try, especially if you've avoided it over the years because it looks like "just a teen thriller". It IS that, but it's much better than many others that have been released in the last two decades.


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