Disturbing Behavior (1998)
WRITER: Scott Rosenberg
DIRECTOR: David Nutter
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. Caldicott
William Sadler as Dorian Newberry
QUICK CUT: New student in town, Steve Clark, tries desperately to fit in amongst his new classmates, but the more he tries to fit in, the more he discoveres that Things Are Not Right in Cradle Bay.
Steve Clark - A victim of a personal tragedy in his life, Steve and his family have moved to Cradle Bay for a fresh start. He wants nothing more than to blend into the wallpaper, but keeps getting noticed by all the wrong people for all the wrong reasons.
Rachel Wagner - The local bad girl that Steve naturally falls for. Her gruff exterior and white trash looks hide secret depths of intelligence and loyalty.
Gavin Strick - Cradle Bay High's favourite stoner and dealer. He's the only one who sees what's going on, while everyone else just shrugs and brushes aside his evidence until it is too late.
Dr. Caldicott - The mastermind behind the shennanigans in Cradle Bay. An intelligent man doing the right thing in the wrong way for the right reasons.
Dorian Newberry - The high school's janitor that most people ignore or make fun of because of his seeming lack of mental faculties, but like everyone else in this movie, he has his secrets.
THE GUTS: After what may be the single most unreadable credit sequences ever, with the most annoying...I hesitate to even call it music. It's a series of discordant notes that actually made me jump the first time I heard them. Way to welcome people into your movie! Er, I got distracted there. After that, the movie swoops down on something more normal, teenagers parking and fogging up windows!
While they go at it, John Connor watches from the bushes with is dog, but then things take a turn for the weird, when the kid in the car suddenly dozes off during the blowjob, and when he comes to a second later, his eyes are glowing.
And this brings us to our first kill of the evening as he snaps her neck and calls her a slut. He seemed to be enjoying it just fine a second ago.
The cops show up and get Andy out of his car and chat about the big football game coming up, when one of them notices the girl's neck is bent in a way not known to be possible by the majority of humans. The body count rises as Andy grabs the first cop's gun and shoots the snooper.
Andy hands the gun back to the first cop and is hurried on his way, dumping the pair of bodies in the dirt, all while John Connor watches. Now, I know some places will do anything to protect their football stars, but...
That brings the story around to Scott Summers and his sister arriving in Alaska...er, I mean, Cradle Bay. Seattle, I guess. The girl is all kinds of thrilled to be moving into their new home, but Scott seems less than enthusiastic. Storyline B bumps into its own pocket of weirdness when Scott sees an empty rowboat floating alongside their ferry. A bit of weirdness which is NEVER explained.
Next day at Scott's first day of school, cue up John Connor giving Scott the tour of the social system at school, and if you've seen any high school movie where a new kid moves in, you've probably seen this scene. And probably more than once. Although I rather like Nick Stahl's delivery, the roteness of it, like he's practiced this speech on a hundred new kids before. It's reasonably good patter. On the other hand, his parroting sidekick UV is getting annoying, fast.
After an awkward dinner where we awkwardly learn that Scott has a dead brother Allen, we follow a student from earlier out to a pretty shady part of town where he's supposed to be picking up parts for his Mustang, but instead runs afoul of some of the local jocks.
Once Dickie gets swarmed by the Blue Ribbons, as John Connor called them, we jump ahead to the following morning, where the principal is meeting with Scott like he does all new students. We also meet Dr. Caldicott, who they don't really say what he does, other than working with the students in a counseling position, which is vaguer than the plot of half the movies I watch here.
They urge Scott to deal with his loss by trying to join some afterschool activities, and make new friends. He immediately takes heed of their advice, since the instant he's out of the office, he runs into Mrs. Tom Cruise. And their eyes pass by each other, with the only thing missing is the song Dream Weaver.
John Connor does his best to introduce the pair, and I have to laugh that even he makes jokes about power ballads at their apparent chemistry, before everyone heads out to get beer.
One of the football players comes up to hit on Rachel, whom I do not have a clever mocking name for, and after she pretty much ignores him, we see him staring at her from the convenience store, and flashing like he has the Intersect in his head.
Just as his eyes are going all Cyclops, a stoner bumps Chug from behind, and the jock goes all rage monkey on him and his friend, tossing them around the aisle and tearing out a nosering. The beatdown is stopped when the same cop that let Andy drive off into the sunset appears to deal with things.
Our trio drive out by the lake to...well, probably not drink beer. Scott asks what's going on with the jocks in town, and John puts out his crazy conspiracy theory about evil that will likely turn out to at least be more right than wrong.
The next day, the boys duck into the school basement so John Connor can have a smoke, and the pair get interrupted by a guy who could not get a wackier introduction, Mr. Newberry. We meet him as he climbs up out of a manhole cover, tossing out a bloody rat, and ranting like he'd believe John's craziness. He sets up a device that should sonically deal with the rats. Gotta love the crazy custodian stereotype.
After that bit of eccentricity, it's back outside where Dickie has gone all preppy and begun selling sledgehammer hits on his Mustang as a fund raiser for his new friends, the Blue Ribbons.
Later, Scott heads out to the yogurt shop, and walks straight into the 50s when he runs into the Blue Ribbons hanging out. John Connor shows up to ruin the party though, and takes Scott outside to show him photos of his old stoner friends that are now in the Stepford Club.
The duo sneak off to spy on a Blue Ribbon meeting from a convenient ginormous grate in the wall, and they get a shock when they learn that the newest vict...candidate is going to be John Connor himself. Well, someone needs to clean him up so he can lead the resistance, I guess.
Getting out of there fast, John Connor goes off the deep end before going home, and pulls out a gun that he intends to use on any Stepforder that comes after him. Oh man, I can just imagine how this movie, in 1998, must have come off, so soon after Columbine and such. Scott takes the gun away from John, who then goes off to form his own school for gifted youngsters over their difference of opinion.
The next day during lunch, John turns back up and there is a collective dropping of jaws as he has cleaned up his act in an instant. No, that isn't suspicious at all.
Scott feels more than a little responsible, and he tries to talk to John, but the rest of the Ribbons won't let him get anywhere near his old friend. A fight breaks out, and I gotta say, going right for a hefty chair to someone's back is a good opening move. But the numbers just aren't in Scott's favour.
Later, Scott has ducked out of further lunches in the cafeteria and is found in the basement by eccentric old Mr. Newberry, who may not be as eccentric as he seems. Scott notices a Kurt Vonegut novel in his coveralls, and realises this joke of a man, this person everyone calls retarded, may have some brains upstairs after all. As he pieces it together, Newberry drops the act, and his nervous twitching goes away with a smile. In a better movie that dealt with the character more, could have really made something of this. That said, this wasn't terrible, mostly thanks to good actors.
Scott heads home, and on the way gets chased through the woods by creepy voices, and once he's inside he runs into Lorna, one of the Stepfords. She's there to tutor Lindsay, and Scott tells her to get out. She freshens up first, and as she watches Scott, her targeting sensors go off and flash over him. This activates her sexing up protocol, which catches Scott and Lorna herself by surprise.
As the proto-Emma Frost makes out with Scott, her eyes go red, and she starts to freak out. She doesn't want to be doing this, knows it's bad, and tries to stop herself by smashing her head into a mirror. Her brain has a meltdown and she tries to make stabby on Scott. But then her brain reboots, and Lorna leaves like nothing ever happened, and blood isn't running down her face and naked chest.
The movie screeches into an impromptu operating theatre, and we see Caldicott and an assistant removing an implant from Lorna's head, as it apparently malfunctioned. They may be Stepfordised, but arousal seems to short circuit the damned thing.
Later, Rachel sneaks down into the basement and is followed by Chug. She laughs and says no, what with not wanting to date a robot and all, and he has a freak out since he's a teen and this is probably just as arousing to him as anything else.
Newberry watches as the psycho is goaded even further, only to be stopped when one of the janitor's screechy rat deterrents goes off. Chug finds the offensive radio and smashes it before it can start playing dubstep. He sees the janitor watching, but does nothing, since all he sees is a dumkopf.
After Scott shoos the Blues away from his sister, he meets up with Rachel and she shows him a message from beyond the bland grave John Connor has found himself in. He drops a bit of exposition that we didn't see him pick up on that gives Scott and Rachel a clue to look up more information on Caldicott, and discover he's been working on mind control experiments for some time.
The pair take a long ferry ride to Bishop Flats to further investigate the sanitarium, and the trip is just long enough for Scott to exposit about his brother who comitted suicide and is the cause for his family moving to Cradle Bay. One has to wonder how the heck these kids have free reign to wander the halls of the madhouse. It's clearly not abandoned, as many of the rooms are occupied. Of course, since there are several inmates just wandering the halls and tearing their teeth out, security seems to be a bit lax.
Crazies continue to chase them around, until they find one rambling girl and discover she's Caldicott's daughter. This somehow is enough reason to make them run out of the nuthatch like they're being chased by Freddy Krueger. But I forgive them that because the running music is Flagpole Sittah, with very appropriate lyrics.
As they try to catch the last ferry back to Cradle Bay, Rachel asks Scott if he has a plan. Of course he has a plan! He's Scott Freakin' Summers! One of the greatest tactical minds to ever grace com...oh. No, he's making it up as he goes along. Well, shit.
The cop who seems to be everywhere in town when you don't want him to be shows up and starts interrogating Steve and Rachel. He gets interupted when Newberry pulls into the gas station. Officer Cox drags the kids into his squad car, and the janitor clocks him over the head with one of his rat radios.
Steve runs home to grab his sister and go back to Chicago, but his parents stop their runaway plan. And that's when Caldicott shows up to get Steve into the Stepford Club. Steve clocks the doctor in the gut, and heads outside, only to run into his new best friends. And once again, numbers are not in Steve's favour.
They drag Steve through dank, murky halls, and um...where is this, exactly? Eh, whatever. They drag him along and strap him down for the procedure, but Steve manages to grab a scalpel for later use. And it looks like my jokes about the Intersect from "Chuck" weren't far off, as they use subliminal messages fed right into Steve's eyeholes to try and reprogram him, in a very Intersecty way. Just be careful, you don't wanna mess with his eyes.
As the implant draws closer to Steve's eye, he cuts his arm free and smashes his way out of the lab, as well as a few doctors along the way. He finds Rachel and frees her as well, but their escape is cut short when they run into Chug and the two guys get into a fight over the girl.
Rachel stops the fight short with a well placed pipe to Chug's head, and the two find UV and Lindsay outside waiting to take them to safety. UV asks Steve what the capitol of North Dakota is to see if he's been mindwiped yet. He passes, and I notice that Rachel has been unusualy silent since her rescue, but that's just her being quiet. It ultimately goes nowhere.
Their escape is cut short though, when they find the entire Stepford Crew blockading the road. Things seem rather bleak, until Newberry races up, and manages to sideswipe the doctor, knocking him out of the way, and unveils an entire truckbed full of his rat radios. These two have been at it for years over whose awards are better.
Steve sends the other three to catch the ferry, and he chases the Blues who are chasing after Newberry. Although why they're chasing after the owie sound makers as they're driving away from the pack, is anyone's guess.
Newberry stops to let all the kids pile onto his El Camino, trying to destroy the radios, and makes the ultimate sacrifice by driving off a cliff into the chilly waters below. And he does it while quoting Pink Floyd. Fare thee well, Newbury. You liked Kurt Vonegut and The Wall, and saved an entire town, if not the nation, from zombie Stepford students. You will be missed and remembered!
Caldicott wasn't quite dead though from being hit by a car, and he shows up for one last fist fight with Steve, gloating that he'll just move on to other towns, with more students he can suck the fun out of. It's a really short fight that ends when a dangling doctor, hanging from Steve's foot, gets kicked in the face and falls into the water to join his experiments.
Steve rushes to the ferry on the motorbike he got from...somewhere, and barely makes it thanks to an unnecessary stunt. He finds Rachel and tells her they're going to go home, and that's wherever they are. Yeah, that's a nicely vague conclusion, movie.
Or that would be the lame conclusion, if the movie didn't want to give us that one more moment of oh no! Another school, another group of unruly kids, and they're getting a new teacher. And there's a nice fakeout where they make it seem like Caldicott survived, but instead it is John Connor who survived, to carry on his work. Dun dun dunnnn!
Video: Not too bad. The video looks a little soft, a little rushed, but that still makes it look better than 90% of the movies here. Budgets matter.
Audio: A nice 5.1 mix, actually. There were some good moments of crashing behind me and moving around.
Special Features: A good commentary by director David Nutter on the making of his first feature, and the struggles to get the movie he wanted made. Also about a dozen deleted scenes that he says are either the best performances of his actors, or serve as scenes that would have added more heart, or more meat, or just MORE to the movie. It is...frustrating. These scenes SHOULD have made the cut. They would have made a much better, much richer movie. Sigh.
Sound Bite: "The problem with America is mankind's abject unwillingness to contribute to the delinquency of minors." Gavin when he can't get a guy to buy some beer.
First Blood: Mary Jo gets her neck snapped five minutes into the movie by a boyfriend who didn't like his BJ.
Best Corpse: I raise my glass once more to you, Mister Newberry, for your impeccable service in cleaning the school, and sacrificing yourself to kill those kids!
Blood Type - C+: I wish there was a little more blood for an R rated movie, but what's there is good, I suppose.
Sex Appeal: Lorna goes half-topless or a little bit, and there's a sex scene in the deleted ones.
Movie Review: This movie shows such potential. There's something to be done with kids getting freaked out by friends 'growing up' and straightening out there acts. There is good metaphor there. Sadly, the high school with monsters type metaphors were done so much better in so many other places, even back when this came out in '98. But, it is perfectly adequate in what it does. The acting is good, the directing is decent enough for Nutter's feature debut, although there is something akin to it feeling like a good tv movie. The deleted scenes would have made this a MUCH better movie, although it still has its share of cheese and camp. Three out of five pokey eye implants.
Entertainment Value: As hilariously awful as Things was, I needed something more...normal. And Disturbing Behavior fit the bill. I had originally schedule this and The Faculty to be back to back, and they really do go well together, both in quality, style, and story. I think I prefer Faculty more, because the movie is just a little more insane, but this one is nicely watchable, and holds your attention for 85 minutes. But nothing outright jawdroppingly attention grabbingly awful. Which is still a good thing, but this movie just ends up being well done and there. Three out of five rat melting radios.
Fun fact! After his fall, Dr. Caldicott went into hiding, started hosting a nature program under the alias Dr. Emmet Cole (With the same initials!) but was last seen going missing on the Amazon. His family have mounted an expedition to try and locate him.