Nostalgia is a strange thing. I have very distinct memories of loving this movie as a kid. But as an adult it’s not at all what I remember it to be. I decided to revisit this film after re-watching The Faculty. Out of the two I think The Faculty has aged better. The film feels abrupt, almost jarring in its pacing. Disturbing Behavior was heavily compared to The Stepford Wives when it first came out. As since this film release I have seen The Stepford Wives, I can now see their point.
Steve Clark (James Marsden) along with his sister Lindsey (Katharine Isabelle) relocate to the small town of Cradle Bay at their parents wishes. The move away from Chicago is for a new start after Steves older brother commits suicide. On his first day he meets Gavin Strick (Nick Stahl), who he befriends along with Gavins fellow outcasts U.V. (Chad Donella) and Rachael (Katie Holmes). Steve notices things are not what they seem to be at Cradle Bay, but is reluctant to believe Gavins claims that the students are being brainwashed. The brainwashed students join the exclusive click The Blue Ribbons, who have dangerously wholesome values. Only after Gavin joins The Blue Ribbons does Steve start believing, but his turn maybe sooner than he thinks.
Yes, that is an incredibly truncated synopsis. The story comes out as overly bland with the one breath of fresh air being the janitor Dorian played by William Sadler. In my opinion hands down the best character in the film. I enjoy characters that play down their intelligence, plus his reading material. I do have to admit his character is the worst where motivation and constancy are involved.
I think the reason I enjoyed this film so much when I was younger can be boiled down to Katie Holmes and the huge crush I had on her. I knew her from Dawsons Creek, like everyone else at the time. Oh, the things you’ll watch when you’re under the sway of teen hormones. Honestly she does a decent job, yeah her acting is clunky. But that’s the fault of the clunky script and overused premise.
It’s tangent time, also spoiler warning. I don’t know how long ago in the time line Steves brother committed suicide. That said, I got the sense that it was recent, like within the last year. What kind of monsters are Steves parents? How fast do they want their kids to get over their brother’s death. Death is hard enough, but suicide is harder. I keep thinking that the brainwashing of their kids is more for their benefit, than for their kids. But that doesn’t makes sense since Lindsey isn’t signed up for the program. So he’s being brainwashed for needing time to process incredibly confusing and intense emotions… Steves parents are the monsters of this film, not Dr. Caldicott.
Final thoughts, all my gripes aside it’s OK. Not by any means is it good, but it’s also not awful. It tells a story, entertains and has a handful of actual good moments. Sadly these moments only happen when the film decides to take a risk, which it doesn’t take many of. Disturbing Behavior is a film that should have remained locked firmly in rose-tinted memory. But it didn’t so Disturbing Behavior gets a score of 4/10.