In the halls of Cradle Bay High School, something sinister is happening… something dark… something disturbing. Sure, the “Blue Ribbons” – the clique that’s at the top of the food chain at Cradle Bay – appear perfect in every way. But underneath their clean-cut, well-mannered facades lurks a shocking secret – one that a group of Cradle Bay High’s outsiders and rebels must uncover in order to save their school, their town…and their own lives.
Having spent all of my teenage years in the '90s, I have an affinity for all things '90s. Well, all good things from the '90s. Out teen/high school movies weren't quite as good as those from John Hughes, but they weren't that far off. Although I went out of my way to see those types of movies – 'Can't Hardly Wait,' 'She's All That,' 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' – I never got around to seeing 'Disturbing Behavior.' Having seen it now, if I had seen it in my teenage years, then I would not have volunteered to review this disc.
'Disturbing Behavior' has all of the ingredients for a decent little thriller involving high school teens. There's the new kid in school, his new unlikely outcast friends, the cute and misunderstood love interest, jocks, stoners, goths, corduroy, the cute little sister, oblivious parents, scenery-chomping tertiary characters, ramped up teenage hormones, sex, violence and a secret plot against the youth. But like any recipe, the end product is entirely affected by the way they're blended and brought together. And with 'Disturbing Behavior,' they've been thrown into a blender without an ounce of rational thinking or intent.
A young James Marsden leads the cast as Steve, the newest kid in Cradle Bay's high school. When his best friend/brother (Ethan Embry) committed suicide, his parents decided a massive change was needed for the family, so he and his sister were uprooted and brought to this isolated small town established on an island that's only accessible by ferry.
The first day of school brings an awkward uncomfortable feeling, but Steve quickly gets over that by forming an unlikely friendship with the first guy who throws any attention his way, a conspiracy theorist paranoid pothead named Gavin (Nick Stahl). Immediately adopted into the group, Steve soon meets Gavin's albino sidekick and his hard-ass female friend Rachel (Katie Holmes). When the foursome starts noticing that their peers are turning into abnormally strange Stepford-like shells of teenagers, they band together to crack the case and stay safe.
Movies with 84-minute runtimes should never feel as messy as this. It's as if 'Disturbing Behavior' was entirely dumbed down to only contain content that would speak directly to A.D.D.-riddled teenagers who can't follow a movie that doesn't quickly jump from one scene to the next. For example, a central character can secretly witness a double homicide, only to never mention it to anyone, let alone be traumatized by it in the slightest. He can even have a conversation with the murderer without any sense of fear. Another example is when two characters decide to head to a mental institution in search of answers that would explain what's happening to their peers. In one scene they talk about needing to go to the looney bin; in the next they're not only sneaking through the locked-down hospital, but they're immediately finding answers without having to put any thought or work into it. There's so little genuine tension within the writing that the score is overly used in the least subtle ways just to make sure that you're aware of how intense you should be feeling.
The upside to 'Disturbing Behavior' is its strength in highlighting '90s teen culture. The dialog and range of characters perfectly capture the era. The flannel and corduroy jackets, hair styles and lingo are spot-on. And the soundtrack causes memories to instantly come flooding back. A great level of nostalgia will be kicked up by anyone around their teenage years in the late '90s. Unfortunately, that's the only thing 'Disturbing Behavior' excels at. Everything else is wasted. A shoot and a miss. Despite loving how it was able to take me back 18 years, that's a feat that several other much more worthwhile movies and soundtracks can do in a more entertaining and worthwhile fashion.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Shout Factory has placed 'Disturbing Behavior' on a Region A BD-50 disc and placed it in a standard blue Elite keepcase. The artwork matches that of the theatrical poster and DVD releases; however, a production photo has been inked onto the back of the artwork sheet and is visible through the inside of the case. Upon popping the disc into your player, several forced videos – FBI warning, commentary disclaimer and Shout Factory and Scream Factory reels – play before the static and score-set main menu.
'Disturbing Behavior' may have a new 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode, but it by no means carries the look and feel of a high-def movie. If you recall the first titles to ever move over to Blu-ray – discs like 'The Fugitive' and 'Finding Neverland' that were just the DVD version ported over to a Blu-ray disc – that's how 'Disturbing Behavior' looks, only with the very occasional somewhat-sharp image.
Almost every known flaw is present in 'Disturbing Behavior.' From the opening title cards on, there's an obvious jutter to every scene shot with a stationary camera. Images with fixed objects are constantly vibrating and wiggling to some degree. Scratches, specks and debris pop around nearly all of the time. Occasionally, hairs or fibers protrude from outside the frame. During the time-killing opening credits sequence, slow-motion flashlight beams are filled with banding. Artifacts are present in many scenes, especially those with low lighting. Black levels bring severe crushing. Some nighttime shots are riddled with so much noise that the should-be blacks appear as shades of gray.
The only flaw to not arise is aliasing, and that's only because no lines are sharp enough to warrant it. Most of the movie is presented without any sharpness at all. Object edges are fuzzy. Fine details are completely absent. Although some scenes are quite a bit sharper than most, they still don't feature defining aspects. Faces and skin never reveal pores nor hairs. The only clothes with visible patterns are the iconic '90s corduroy, and that's only because the pattern is quite thick.
Even if you love 'Disturbing Behavior,' there's little to this Blu-ray transfer to entice you to replace your DVD copy with it.
Surprisingly, Shout Factory! has given 'Disturbing Behavior' not one, but two lossless DTS-HD Master Audio tracks. There's a 5.1 version and a 2.0 version. Unfortunately, in this case, the higher channel count does not make it the greater of the two.
The 5.1 mix is completely out of balance. Dialog is low, center-heavy and extremely flat. It carries the apparent quality of bad ADR. More often than not, when it's present with effects or music, the volume is much too low to be audible. Be prepared for a finger exercise because you'll have to constantly adjust your volume.
The effects of the 5.1 mix are decent, still not great. The obvious and expected surround effects – like crickets in an forested outdoor setting or ambient banter in a diner – are spread throughout the channels, but the less obvious effects are bound to the front.
Mark Snow (of 'X-Files' fame) scored the movie. His track is very well mixed and pops around the space. It's easily the most dynamic and enjoyable aspect of the 5.1 mix.
After being disappointed by the 5.1 mix, I switched over to the 2.0 mix, which made for a surprisingly more enjoyable listening experience. The volume balance of the dialog, effects and music is much more harmonious and in-tune than that of the 5.1 track. The dialog still comes across as ADR hell, but the other aspects still feature good quality.
With the exception of The Fly's music video for "Got You Where I Want You," all of the special features from the 2000 DVD release of 'Disturbing Behavior' have been transferred over to the Blu-ray. There are no new features and the once-rumored fan-demended director's cut has still not seen the light of day.
Nostalgia aside, there's very little making 'Disturbing Behavior' a '90s movie worth revisiting, let alone adding to your collection. It plays out like a rejected R-rated two-part episode of 'The X-Files,' only without the series' charismatic leading characters. The video and audio qualities are quite poor and only the two significant special features from the original DVD release are included. Unless you already know and love 'Disturbing Behavior,' this is one Blu-ray worth leaving behind.