Disturbing Behavior
directed by David Nutter
(Columbia TriStar, 1998)

Disturbing Behavior reverses expectations. The good kids are bad, the bad kids are good and sexual temptation leads to violence.

The Blue Ribbons is a clique of obsessively "good" students in Cradle Bay, a small island community in the Pacific Northwest. But, in this high school horror-drama directed by X-Files veteran David Nutter, the bad and rebellious kids tend to disappear, then reappear newly clean-cut, upstanding and inclined to sponsor bake sales for good causes. And thus the horror ensues....

Is it aliens? Androids? Body-snatchers? No, the monster here is Dr. Caldicott (Bruce Greenwood), a high school counselor who dabbles in microchip implants and brainwashing. But when he puts the grab on happy-go-lucky pot-head Gavin Strick (Nick Stahl), pals Steve Clark (James Marsden) and Rachel Wagner (Katie Holmes of Dawson's Creek fame) decide to investigate.

Blocking their path is Officer Cox (Steve Railsback), a police officer who won't let a little thing like a dead partner get in the way of a quiet and peaceful community, but they find an unexpected ally in the form of rat-obsessed school janitor Dorian Newberry (William Sadler).

Disturbing Behavior never really hits its stride. Despite an interesting premise (a modern, hipper take on The Stepford Wives), the plot is underdeveloped -- which is a shame, since many vital developments were filmed but left on the cutting room floor. (It's possible to get a clearer view of the director's vision -- in piecemeal form -- on the DVD.) As it is, this thriller doesn't thrill, but it oozes potential. Cutting a good film down to save time at the expense of its soul -- now that's disturbing behavior.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 10 August 2002

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