Our review of Disturbing Behavior (1998) (Blu-ray), published March 13th, 2016, is also available.
It doesn't matter if you're not perfect. You will be.
It doesn't matter that Disturbing Behavior isn't perfect, because it could have been.
If Disturbing Behavior was a bare-bones disc, I'd be writing it up as a slightly better than mediocre movie. But, the disc contains the key to why it's not a better movie than it is…and the blame rests entirely on MGM.
Disturbing Behavior was directed by David Nutter, in his big-studio movie debut. He has directed episodes for several television shows, including 21 Jump Street, ER, and most notably, The X-Files. Of the latter, he directed some of the best episodes of the first three seasons, including "Nisei," "Blood," and "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose." If you know that Nutter has this background, you can see what sort of movie he was trying to make: a conspiracy thriller. However, in the wake of Scream, MGM was only looking to release a teen-targeted horror movie. In the editing process, much of the conspiracy plot was left on the cutting room floor, and all of the "jump beats" and action to scare teeny-boppers were left in with little context. Thankfully, the best scenes that didn't make it are included on the DVD with optional commentary by Nutter.
Disturbing Behavior takes place in a small town in the San Juan Islands of northern Washington State. Its high school is full of your typical cliques—the stoners, the gearheads, the nerds…and the Blue Ribbons. They are the epitome of good behavior. They excel in their classes and sports, and are model citizens. That's what makes them so creepy. A new kid, Steve (James Mardsen, The X-Men) is befriended by two of the kids who don't easily fit into the other groups: the paranoid Gavin (Nick Stahl, The Man Without A Face, The Thin Red Line) and sexy Rachel (Katie Holmes, Go, Wonder Boys, TV's Dawson's Creek). Gavin is worried that there are sinister forces at work in Cradle Bay, and the entire problem seems to lead back to the school counselor, Dr. Caldicott (Bruce Greenwood, Passenger 57, Double Jeopardy). Gavin's friends humor his delusions until one night he is transformed from his druggy, underachieving self into a member of the Blue Ribbons. It's at that point that Steve and Rachel realize that there really is something amiss, and try to unravel Caldicott's machinations while avoiding the zombified state of the Blue Ribbons.
Like I said before, it's all pretty standard teen fare throughout the movie. It's not until you see the deleted scenes that you see why Caldicott is using the teens of Cradle Bay as guinea pigs for his experiments, and why the adults of the little town are all too willing to see their teens' personalities taken away in favor of becoming sweater-wearing, overachieving automatons. Disturbing Behavior screams for a director's cut. Like Blade Runner, a nearsighted studio radically changed the vision of the movie. But unlike Ridley Scott's sci-fi masterpiece, Disturbing Behavior does not have a cult following that would appreciate the effort that would go into a different version of the movie. So, we're stuck with watching the best parts of the movie as supplements rather than as part of the whole.
The DVD presentation of Disturbing Behavior is impressive. The movie is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and pan-n-scan, on opposite sides of the disc. The anamorphic picture is terrific, with very few artifacts or blemishes to distract. A great deal of the movie takes place in the dark, and the black level is dead-on perfect. Shadow detail is excellent, and there is no murkiness. Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and is also perfect. The sound stage is expansive, and directional effects abound. The score is projected all around the viewer, and draws you into the conspiratorial plot. (The score, by the way, was written by Mark Snow, also responsible for the theme music of The X-Files. It's chilling.)
The extras (other than the essential deleted scenes) include a commentary track, the theatrical trailer, and a music video. The commentary was recorded by David Nutter. He avoids talking about technical details. Instead, he discusses the plot and the trials of making a Hollywood movie. It's one of the best commentaries I've heard—not necessarily the most entertaining (that award would have to go to Mallrats), but one of the most enlightening. The trailer is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic with stereo sound. The music video is of the Flys' song, "Got You Where I Want You." It's full-frame with stereo sound. The song has One-Hit Wonder written all over it, but the song, movie, and video are tied together a bit more closely than songs in other teen flicks.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The Alpha keep case and double-sided disc are the only things about which I can complain. Considering the movie is rather short and there isn't a plethora of extras, it would have been nice to see both versions of the movie on a single side of a dual-layered disc, like The Big Lebowski, A Bug's Life, or Blue Streak.
If you're an X-phile or just like smartly-written conspiratorial plots that don't involve alien abductions, at least give Disturbing Behavior a rental. At $24.99US list price, and under $20US at most online outlets, it's a good buy too.
David Nutter, the court grants you final cut privileges on your subsequent films and awards punitive damages for the mess MGM made of this movie. MGM is sentenced to keep up their quality DVD releases, but let filmmakers make their own damn movies.
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Scales of Justice
• Deleted Scenes
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