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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Disturbing Behavior (Blu-ray)
Disturbing Behavior (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // R // March 22, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $26.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted March 9, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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A U D I O
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THE FILM:

Click an image to view Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution.

I never saw David Nutter's Disturbing Behavior in theaters, but I do remember Harvey Danger's omnipresent "Flagpole Sitta," a track from the soundtrack. That song was everywhere! Nutter went on to become a successful TV director, helming episodes of "The X-Files," "Game of Thrones" and "Homeland," among others, but this 1998 teen thriller is not half bad for a film the studio essentially gutted and re-edited without Nutter's assistance. James Marsden, in his big-screen debut, joins Katie Holmes and Nick Stahl in this play on The Stepford Wives. Cradle Bay is not like other idyllic small towns. The teenagers do not party, take drugs or stay out late. Something is amiss behind the scenes, and these "Blue Ribbon" prepsters turn violent when their chastity is challenged. Some interesting twists and thrills await the viewer, though it's easy to see the stitches in this quick, 84-minute film.

Less than a year after his brother commits suicide, Steve Clark (Marsden) and his younger sister, Lindsay (Katharine Isabelle), are moved to Cradle Bay, where Steve casually falls in with the "alternative" crowd, including Rachel (Holmes) and Gavin (Stahl). The real alternative here is a personality, as most of the school is comprised of "Blue Ribbons," a group of dapper dandies and ice queens with perfect grades and little to say. Classmates seem to change from normal to caricature overnight, and the kids of Cradle Bay have a funny way of reacting to those who challenge their sobriety. A local doctor (Bruce Greenwood) offers a "special program" for gifted students, but Gavin warns Steve not to cozy up to the dead-eyed preps.

Even with its choppy editing and narrative problems, Disturbing Behavior is an entertaining film, and it is much better than several contemporary projects. I'm looking at you Teaching Mrs. Tingle and Jawbreaker. It's clear there was a better, longer film brought to the table that MGM ultimately decided to hack up to satiate their version of a modern audience. Check out the half-hour of deleted scenes on this Blu-ray for extended character and story development that could have greatly improved the final product. The theatrical (and only available) version is quick and uneven. There are voiceovers where actors' mouths do not move, and several characters are never developed. Ethan Embry, a fairly recognizable actor, plays the dead Clark brother in several dream sequences, and it's obvious by the caliber of said actor that the character was meant to play a larger part in the final film.

What works here is the interesting reason why these teenagers are acting out of sorts. Nutter references Stanley Kubrick and Michael Laughlin, and his three leads do a nice job carrying the movie. Their characters are somewhat gutted in the final film, but it's clear Nutter had a real vision of what he wanted these three to be. The cold open is also pretty slick, and I did not expect the reaction of an "incapacitated" Blue Ribbon to be quite so finite. It's a minor miracle Disturbing Behavior works so well despite all the studio meddling. Marsden and Stahl are especially good, and their work alone makes this better than most teen thrillers. Nutter has some big ideas and shows early promise behind the camera. Eighteen years have not turned this into a classic, but it's certainly worth a watch for fans of Scream-era thrills.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

Let's get this out of the way first. Ain't nobody doing an 8k scan of Disturbing Behavior. Shout! Factory gives it an unexpected HD bump with this Blu-ray release, with a 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer. Things look good - not great - but that's about what I expected. First, the bad: Disturbing Behavior has the slightly dark and ruddy look of similar films. Detail is often degraded in nighttime scenes, and noise creeps into the frame. There is also some minor print damage and aliasing. The good: Fine-object detail and texture are decently impressive, and sharpness is stable. Skin tones are accurate, and colors are well saturated (if slightly muted). This image is pleasantly free of digital noise reduction and edge halos. This is a more-than-acceptable HD presentation.

SOUND:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is OK. My biggest gripe is that some of the dialogue is slightly muffled, as if the actors are speaking underwater. This may be a production issue, but fidelity actually improves as the film moves forward. There are some light ambient and action effects to surround the viewer, and the LFE awakens during these frenetic scenes. I noticed a few sound pans and some directional dialogue, and the music is decently weighty. An English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is also included, as are English subs.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This single-disc release is packed in a standard case with dual-sided artwork. Extras include a Commentary by David Nutter, which isn't the most forthcoming, and a number of Deleted Scenes (24:42 total/SD) that show the film that might have been. You also get the film's Trailer (2:31/SD).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

This 1998 thriller from David Nutter was hacked up by MGM but is still a decent Stepford Wives knock-off. James Marsden, Katie Holmes and Nick Stahl do their best to avoid some very strange classmates in an idyllic bayside town. There are some stylish thrills and decent ideas amid the bad editing and narrative holes. Shout! Factory's Blu-ray looks and sounds decent and offers some good deleted scenes. Recommended.


Additional screenshots:

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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