Dir. David Nutter (1998)
A transfer student discovers that his new school really, really cares about academic performance.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Picking up where we left off on our Back to School Week is Disturbing Behavior, a movie that is essentially The Faculty with mind control instead of aliens and with less starpower. James Marsden plays Steve Clark, a new kid who is transferring to a school in idyllic Cradle Bay because his brother committed suicide. He’s filled with teenage angst and decides to join the Stoner group instead of the much more applicable Guys Who Would Go On To Play A Marvel Superhero group. However, he quickly discovers that the town is filled with people who are a little too perfect, outside of their propensity to go on murderous rampages in the name of perfection.
The movie is decent, with a soundtrack that would’ve been excellent if it wasn’t so terribly managed (see the mangled insertion of Flagpole Sitta that manages to ruin a great 90’s anthem). There’s actually boobs involved, which is one thing it has going for it that The Faculty didn’t (except for the too dark shot of Laura Harris that probably wasn’t actually nekkid). There’s also a bunch of dumb jocks that would be perfectly at home in that episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where kids are controlled by hyenas. Much like The Faculty, the movie involves a pretty intense feeling of paranoia, wondering who among your friend group is going to turn into yet another member of the Blue Ribbon Club (the dumbass name for the people who have been mind-controlled in the film).
The movie is basically Mean Girls with dudes and murder.
The star of the show, however, is Nick Stahl, who plays the brilliant stoner who has crazy conspiracy theories that, of course, all turn out to be correct. He rambles like a schizophrenic riffing off of the archetypes of teen culture and state fascism in the same breath, and we all knew someone like this in high school. He’s the Josh Hartnett character of this film, but things don’t turn out as well for him as they did for Josh. Katie Holmes, trying desperately to break free from her Dawson’s Creek good girl image, plays the part of the gothy stoner. Unfortunately, all she ends up being is Katie Holmes wearing black. We’d have to wait until she showed her boobs in The Gift for her to finally break out of her shell. But then, of course, she married Tom Cruise and had that whole disaster, so maybe she should’ve made different choices with her life.
Like, for one, wash your fucking hair.
Disturbing Behavior is definitely worth a watch, if for no other reason than it really is a “twin film” of The Faculty. If you don’t know about twin films, it’s a really fascinating phenomena where two different studios, at the same time, make what are basically the same movies. For instance, Dante’s Peak and Volcano (both 1997), Deep Impact and Armageddon (both 1998), and the insanely coincidental Zzyzx and Zyzzyx Road, who, despite the different spellings, were both about people trying to hide a body on Zzyzx Road in California (both 2006 somehow). There are any number of reasons as to why this happen, be it movement between studios by people in the industry or just topical concepts that give people the same ideas at the same time. Fortunately, like with Deep Impact and Armageddon, 1998 gave us both Disturbing Behavior and The Faculty, two movies that are absolutely worth your time even though The Faculty is clearly the better movie.
Who this movie is for: 90’s horror fans, Body snatcher film fans, People who wished The Faculty was a bit edgier
Bottom line: While not as good as The Faculty, Disturbing Behavior is a fun film that’s worth a watch. There are some great roles in this, most notably Bruce Greenwood as the man behind the incredibly rude plan of taking over people’s minds. It fits nicely into a movie marathon, like, say, if you were wanting to watch a Back to School slate of films. But who would want to do that?