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Disturbing Behavior (1998)
Rated R

Starring: James Marsden, Katie Holmes, and Nick Stahl

Rating:
*
out of
*****

All is not as it seems in the town of Cradle Bay, Washington. The kids in the local high school are separated into the usual geek and burn-out categories, but there's a group called the Blue Ribbons which aren't like the other kids. They may have the characteristics of the jocks, but they're into bake sales and fundraisers too. They also seem to exhibit a tendency to get very violent when sexually aroused. When Gavin (Nick Stahl) sees one of the Blue Ribbons murder a police officer and his girlfriend, no one will believe him when he says that there's a conspiracy in town.

Steve (James Marsden), who's just moved into Cradle Bay from Chicago, provides Gavin with an outlet for his story. Gavin introduces Steve to the inner workings of the Cradle Bay High School and slowly warms up to telling him about what he's seen. But, since Steve had some trouble in his past, the Blue Ribbons are anxious to recruit him in an effort to give him direction in his life.

In the wake of Scream, many teenage-based horror movies flooded into theaters. Most of them cast actors who could be models on their day off into roles that required them (both male and female) to wear clothes that reveal their bodies as often and as flatteringly as possible. The men wear skin tight shirts (or no shirts at all) to reveal their six-pack abs and muscular bodies and women wear skin-tight (especially tight in the bustline or, like the men, not at all) and midriff-bearing shirts. Plotlines are secondary to putting the actors in situations where sexual tensions are high and blood flows freely. Scream was an intelligent spoof of movies like this.

Disturbing Behavior begins in a refreshing manner. At first, it seems as if this movie will inject a little intrigue into the plot and maintain it through actual suspense and good storytelling. Unfortunately, as the character of Rachel (Katie Holmes) is introduced -- bearing her midriff and looking all pouty -- the good qualities suddenly begin to evaporate one-by-one. It's a shame, because I was interested in how this movie was going to wind up.

Good actors are wasted in thankless and pointless roles. William Sadler, who was so great in movies like Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (as the Grim Reaper) and The Shawshank Redemption, is a total throwaway as the janitor who isn't quite what he seems. Steve Railsback, who's never really had a good role since 1980's The Stuntman, is also a throw-away as the evil cop. Nick Stahl's Gavin is the only character or performance worth caring about, since he's the only person to exhibit any signs of true intelligence.

This is a horror movie that isn't scary, doesn't play for intentional laughs, and never really pays off in any way. Even the "conclusion" doesn't seem like much of a climax. Actually, the best thing about this film is the running time which barely clocks in at 80 minutes. If that's the only really good thing I can say about a movie, I suggest you look elsewhere in the video store for a good scare. 

Trivia: James Marsden appeared in a TV series called Second Noah, which ran in 1996 for one season. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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