Disturbing Behavior
Rating -

Thriller (US); 1998; Rated R; 83 Minutes

Jimmy Marsden: Steve Clark
Katie Holmes: Rachel Wagner
Nick Stahl: Gavin Strick
Steve Railsback: Cox
Bruce Greenwood: Dr. Caldicott

Produced by Armyan Bernstein, C.O. Erickson, Phillip B. Goldfine, Brent OíConnor, Scott Rosenberg, Elisabeth Seldes, Jonathan Shestack and Max Wong; Directed by David Nutter; Screenwritten by Howard Gordon and Scott Rosenberg

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Written by DAVID KEYES

I imagine you remember "The Stepford Wives." I imagine you know the story which, according to the male characters, was a perfect one because the women in it obeyed, honored, and clearly followed everything their husbands said. Ideas like it are not often accomplished in movies, and such an idea is a marvelous one (at the time).

Now comes "Disturbing Behavior," a modern-day retelling of the Stepford formula, which places teenage kids in the roles of the wives. Their parents sign them up for a 'program' which terminates any urges or beliefs they had, and brainwashes them into molds for their parents; creatures with no purpose other than to please the people around them.

But there's more at stake than most realize. Brainwashing teenagers might often be an urge for most parents nowadays, but it's not something to even consider, especially for me. What makes them gifted and extraordinary human beings is the content of the character inside themselves, which is formed over the years by experiences and beliefs within their lifetimes. You take one look at the teenagers in "Disturbing Behavior" and you know they've been brainwashed. All of them have the same identical looks on their faces, and all are all aiming towards one goal: to please their parents.

Let's face itónot every kid wants to please their parents. You instantly know that this is a movie, because I doubt any real life situation would start out with every teenager at school wearing decent clothes and having a good positive attitude to please their mothers and fathers. Nopeóit's just not real life.

This is exactly what makes "Disturbing Behavior" a different type of movie. You know it has to be fiction, because no such 'program' is available, and there is no possibility for every kid at school to put their needs behind those of others. Movies can sometime give us the interpretation of real life and real issues. "Disturbing Behavior" intends to keep things original, and intends to make sure the viewer knows that this stuff isn't real. It could not arrive at a better time, when the teenage years of today's youth seem to wander farther out of control.

I was not disappointed here. I was creeped out, entertained, amused, and even appalled at the treatment of characters in this movie. They start out on the 'always-happy' side, and end on the 'lemme-outta-here' side. Once one teenager untamed by the program attempts to set the other teenage victims free from their parent clutches, they see the horrors and humiliations that they have been put through by this so-called 'successful program.' They know they've become inhuman, and some think the only way out is death.

This program, by the way, is one that changes chemical mixes in the brain activity so that the 'perfect' impulses demonstrated by the human nervous system are the only things that can be used by the host. Meaning, in English, that no one under the program's influence can do any wrong. Nope, no bad habits, no rude remarks, no cruel feelings, nothing. It's all like straight out of a Barney episode, where everyone is cheerful and smiley-faced 24 hours a day.

But, it doesn't always last. When a new person moves into town, and is not under the knowledge of this 'program,' she looks on in suspicion at how nice everyone is at the new high school, considering that everyone early on in her life treated her like sheer crap.

They don't here. Everyone is her best friend, and it frightens her. Before long, she becomes aware of the 'program' via her parents, and narrowly escapes it, all in the end to attempt to save some of the souls which have already been affected by it.

I'm going to spoil it for you. All that matters is the fact that it is creepy, surreal, and very amusing. No, it's not the type of horror that makes you jump at tense moments. It's the type of horror like that in "The Omen," where, once you learn the story, you are frightened for the characters just as much as you are frightened by the possible resolution. Who could have predicted at the end of "The Omen" that that antichrist would still be alive and his parents would be dead? Sure, we all knew something like it was coming, but in movies like this, you can't tell what exactly what will happen.

I love movies that do this to me. And I loved "Disturbing Behavior."

© 1998, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org. Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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