David Nutter might be known for his work in television on The X-Files, Millennium, and recently Game of Thrones, but he also directed a pretty solid late-’90s horror flick called Disturbing Behavior. The film was a good starting point for both James Marsden and Katie Holmes, and it gave Katharine Isabelle a pre-Ginger Snaps role; even William Sadler shows up as a nearly unrecognizable janitor obsessed with rats. And with the successes of The X-Files under his belt, Nutter set out with Scott Rosenberg’s script to create a film that effectively summarizes the ideals of the era – hard rock, drugs, outsider culture – and the pressures of being perfect in teenhood.
In essence, Disturbing Behavior is The Stepford Wives for teens. That film epitomized the robotics of middle age, attempting to craft the ultimate idyllic scenario for white hot-blooded men who prefer their women submissive. Nutter’s film, then, responds with a similar scenario that focuses on a younger generation, one that often comes under fire for their “outsider” culture and lack of perceived normalcy. Disturbing Behavior follows Steve Clark (Marsden), the new guy in town at Cradle Bay High School, as he traverses the difficulties of high school and ’90s niches; eventually, he falls in with the “freaks” – Gavin (Nick Stahl), U.V. (Chad Donella), and Rachel (Holmes) – after noticing the peculiar ways that the school’s jocks/scholars in the Blue Ribbon Club react.
The Blue Ribbon Club – led by Dr. Edgar Caldicott (Bruce Greenwood), sporting a nifty mustache – represents the exemplary: those that have been able to overcome their baser human instincts like sexuality and drug use to reach new scholastic and athletic heights. But they’ve also become the most snobbish people at Cradle Bay High School, shunning those who aren’t part of their clique. Their attempts to repress their individuality in favor of pre-established societal norms calculated by the adults of the community also falters during stressful situations, especially sexual ones, causing aggressive outbursts.
Nutter explores the often difficult territory of teenage angst in the confines of the sci-fi plot, and for the most part, he manages to find a couple of emotionally fragile characters in both Steve and Gavin. It’s good to see Disturbing Behavior treating its outsider clique with respect instead of with stereotypes that crop up early on in the film; the plot needs that definition, where the movie questions what exactly normal teenage behavior should look like. Gavin and his friend U.V. are eccentric, sure, but Rosenberg’s script gives them quite a bit of unexpected depth, and Stahl handles his part extremely well. That’s especially true during his transition period halfway through the film, when he finds himself an unwilling participant in the Blue Ribbon Club.
The film also has a recurring subplot about brotherhood that deals with teen grief in the wake of a family member’s death. Steve’s brother killed himself before the events in Disturbing Behavior, and that focus on brotherhood – of joining a family of peers in the Blue Ribbon Club – is meant to be an ever-present motivation for Steve to turn to the enemy. There are those that would rather brush death under the rug with the rest of the uncomfortable things rather than confront it head-on, and Steve’s family seeks the Blue Ribbon Club’s help dealing with Steve’s grief rather than allowing him to express it in healthy ways.
Disturbing Behavior has some excellent views on outsider culture, and it helps that the most outsider character within the film – a janitor who understands the horrible things happening in Cradle Bay pretending to be mildly mentally retarded – gets the satisfaction of saving the day in the conclusion. The film eschews defining normalcy (albeit using stereotypes to do it) and embraces counterculture in a way that feels welcoming to people who find themselves in similar situations in life – those unwilling or unable to fit into the strict societal rules that are often predefined for us. It might be a Stepford Wives copycat, but Disturbing Behavior finds mileage in understanding its teen characters and the social expectations that are placed on them.
Scream Factory has done a nice job with this Blu-Ray as always with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and really there are no noticeable flaws within the picture. Audio comes in both 5.1 DTS-HD master audio and a 2.0 track – I watched the 5.1 and it sounded very good, with crisp dialogue without drop-outs. Subtitles are also included.
The special features on this disc are effectively the same as on the previously-released DVD version of the film. There’s an audio commentary track with David Nutter (which I recommend watching – he has some interesting things to say) as well as 24 minutes of deleted scenes including the alternate ending, which you can watch with or without commentary from Nutter. A theatrical trailer is also included.
These are nice, but the Blu-Ray altogether feels a little lacking. This isn’t a collector’s edition, so there was no expectation to have a ton of new stuff on this Blu-Ray. But it’s unfortunate that Scream Factory couldn’t get an updated interview with Nutter or some of the secondary characters to discuss some of the major problems with the original film cut and subsequent content editing from the film studio.