Disturbing Behavior – Review

Disturbing Behavior

With Katie Holmes, James Marsden, Chad E. Donella, Bruce Greenwood, William Sadler
Written by Scott Rosenberg
Directed by David Nutter (MGM)
by Michael McCarthy

If you’ve seen the theatrical preview, you’re probably intrigued, but I have to warn you: it’s much, much better than the movie. Reason being, the only thing this film really has going for it is its very premise, which the trailer gives away. (Now, if you’re definitely going to see Disturbing Behavior and haven’t seen the preview, don’t read the remainder of this review and let me ruin that for you.)

Helmed by frequent X-Files director/producer David Nutter, and with a score by X-Files composer Mark Snow, the film looks like a dark, creepy episode of The X-Files and occasionally sounds like one. Matter of fact, Disturbing Behavior has more of the visual darkness associated with The X-Files television show than The X-Files movie has. However, that does not make it enticing enough to be considered a worthwhile watch. Some of the younger audience (the producers’ target demographic, obviously) may want to see this because Dawson’s Creek gal Katie Holmes plays the female lead. Understandable if you’re a fan of her work on the show, but her part here is very underdeveloped and she disappears for significant lengths of time, so I wouldn’t recommend seeing this just for her.

Set in the fictional island town of Cradle Bay, Disturbing Behavior starts off amusingly enough with a Heathers-esque rundown of the cliques at the local high school. The script was written by Scott Rosenberg, who wrote Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead and Beautiful Girls – both of which contained some clever dialogue – though it should be noted that his dialogue here seems too heavily influenced by Kevin “Scream” Williamson’s. That’s one of the biggest problems: Disturbing Behavior tries way too hard to be another Scream or I Know What You Did Last Summer and fails miserably. Granted, I was not a fan of I Know What You Did Last Summer, but the film was somewhat suspenseful and made me flinch a few times as it managed to occasionally startle me. Disturbing Behavior did not startle me once. The premise concerning a group of parents and teachers perfecting the local children via mind control operations and such is chilling in its own right, but I already knew that was the deal in Cradle Bay when I walked into the theater, having seen the preview, meaning that it wasn’t a surprise and had already lost its shock value.

As for the rest of the plot, we’re talking pure stock. A bland new kid (James Marsden) arrives in town and falls in with the wrong crowd; typical B-horror movie fodder. As always, the wrong crowd (the delinquents) happens to be the right crowd, since the right crowd are the “Blue Ribbons” (jocks and cheerleaders who’ve already gone through the perfecting process). You know damn well the new kid in town is going to discover what’s going on and help save the day, yadda, yadda, yawn. There’s also some nonsense about how the new kid’s brother committed suicide and there are a few silly, useless flashbacks in which we see the brother acting goofy. Gee, he looks an awful lot like that dreamy-eyed loser in Can’t Hardly Wait and Empire Records.

Since Katie Holmes seemingly made this prior to garnering all the attention Dawson’s Creek has afforded her, I suppose I can forgive her. As for Rosenberg, I hope this is one of those dozen plus screenplays he wrote pre-Things To Do In Denver and later sold, because it would be very unfortunate if he’s actually satisfied with this mess. Then again, he was a co-producer, so maybe he is. The only thing I’m sure about is that Disturbing Behavior is ultimately an unforgivably bad movie. In fact, it’s so bad that someday I might be able to watch it again and laugh at it in the same way some do with Showgirls, but at the moment, I’m just wishing I could get that hour and a half of my life back.