Disturbing Behavior

I passed on “Disturbing Behavior” when it played in theaters. The previews positioned it as a teenage “The Stepford Wives.” The reviews that I read weren’t kind, and most stressed the lack of character development and plot. At 84 minutes, “Disturbing Behavior” didn’t just cut to the chase, that’s all that was left.


disturbingbehaviorDirector David Nutter, who proved his ability to direct creepy cinema by helming several episodes of “The X-Files,” complained that his version of the film was butchered to favor teenage movie audiences. When I got the video screener of “Disturbing Behavior,” I immediately plugged it into the VCR. My opinion? Not bad, but it was sorely lacking character development, and it seemed that major plot points were missing.

MGM Home Entertainment rectifies that problem with the DVD release of “Disturbing Behavior.” The DVD includes ten deleted scenes and the film’s original ending, and what a revelation they are. Nutter’s instincts were right. The ten deleted scenes aren’t your usual unnecessary filler, but major character development and back story.

The original ending also brings the nightmare to a close, unlike the “will there be a sequel?” ending that’s on the video version. Scott Rosenberg’s screenplay does borrow heavily from Ira Levin’s “The Stepford Wives,” but not in an insulting way. Instead, Rosenberg has fun with the idea of a small town that turns their unruly teenagers into brainwashed exemplary students. On the surface, Cradle Bay looks like paradise. One of those cozy Pacific Northwest islands only available by ferry. It’s the perfect place to get away from it all, which is what the Clark family is doing after the suicide of their son Allen (Ethan Embry, only briefly).

Allen’s death has left a scar on the entire family, but it’s high school senior Steve (James Marsden) who suffers the most. Unable to fill his brother’s shoes, Steve feels like a disappointment to his parents, especially his father. At his new school, Steve tags up with bad girl Rachel (Katie Holmes) and bad boy Gavin (Nick Stahl). They’re not really bad, but they’re a far cry from the kids who comprise the Blue Ribbon Club. Talk about creepy. They’re perfect little people, worse than young Republicans. They get good grades, they’re club presidents and star athletes, and they really creep everyone else out.

Even worse, one by one, the unruly students are becoming members of the Blue Ribbon Club, leading Steve, Rachel and Gavin to suspect that something evil is going on in Cradle Bay. Duh! Even worse, all of the adults seem to be in on it. So when Gavin becomes one of the perfect people, Steve and Rachel turn to school custodian Dorian Newberry (William Sadler, very heroic). Dorian pretends to be slow so people leave him alone, but he’s smarter than everyone in Cradle Bay. Will Steve and Rachel uncover the truth before they become “Cradle Bay” clones? “Disturbing Behavior” isn’t a great film, but it is entertaining (especially after viewing the deleted scenes and knowing the back story), and Nutter does an excellent job of making everything exciting and creepy.

The young cast does a splendid job of making it all matter, especially Marsden and Holmes, who display real chemistry. I applaud MGM Home Entertainment for allowing us to see Nutter’s original version, even if it is through supplementary material. Now, what I really want to know is where can I get the home version? There’s a couple of teenagers living on my block that would make acceptable Blue Ribbon Club candidates.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: [ X ] 20/20 [ ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind

Strong, vivid colors permeate the handsome digital transfer that is available in both the film’s original 1.85:1 widescreen ratio enhanced at 16:9, and a standard version on the flip side. Both versions feature sharp images, nice color saturation (the flesh tones are a little warm, but not distractively so), and the blacks are solid but not definitive. Nice clean transfer from a pristine master that shows virtually no compression artifacts. Excellent definition and field of depth accurately captures the mood and atmosphere of John S. Bartley’s cinematography.

HEARING: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf

Exciting 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround track envelops the room with a sound mix so distinctive it feels like the action is happening live. Sure, there’s a French language Dolby Digital Surround track, bunt unless you speak French, stick to the 5.1 track. That way you’ll enjoy awesome basses that suck the air out of the room, and crystal clear high ends that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. The ambient noise and rear speakers are especially active. Superb dialogue mix makes it easy to sit back and enjoy the action, while Mark Snow’s eerie score caresses every speaker with a foreboding vibrato. No noticeable distortion.

ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Poor

Closed captions in English for the hard of hearing, and subtitles in French.

COORDINATION: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ ] Weak

The “Disturbing Behavior” DVD isn’t being released as a Special Edition, but it does include enough extras to qualify it as such. First and foremost, the “Disturbing Behavior” DVD features ten deleted scenes and an alternate ending. In the audio commentary, director David Nutter is very candid about the hatchet job that was done to his debut film. The deleted scenes and alternate ending prove that Nutter’s instincts were correct. The deleted scenes aren’t superficial fluff, but important back story and character development. “Disturbing Behavior” would have been a much better film with these scenes included. The scenes and alternate ending can be viewed as they appear in the film, or with commentary by Nutter. The full-length commentary track is an interesting blend of behind-the-scenes tidbits and sad lament. The DVD also features The Fly’s “Got You (Where I Want You)” music video, the original theatrical trailer, and a 4-page booklet that gives a brief yet fascinating look at the film’s young stars. I was also excited about the DVD’s “disturbing” full-animation main menu that set a the tone for the film. The graphics are creepy and foreboding. There’s also a hidden bonus on the special features page. Click on the eye of the test subject, and you get a freaky little “big brother” animation.

PROGNOSIS: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal

I’ve been reviewing video for so long that I hate to say anything to slight the format, but this DVD of “Disturbing Behavior” is an immense improvement over the video version. The back story available in the deleted scenes improves the overall viewing experience.

VITALS: $24.95/Rated R/84 Minutes/Color/36 Chapter Stops/Keepcase/#907432

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: DISTURBING BEHAVIOR

BIRTH DATE: 1998

HMO: MGM Home Entertainment



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