Disturbing Behavior

If you ever want to watch a movie that was clearly ruined in the edit watch this movie. It’s terrible, but the reason it’s terrible is clearly on display.

I had never heard of this movie until this past week when it was brought up twice by two different sources. I figured I had to check it out, and it was a fascinating disaster. I felt kind of like a detective trying to pick apart the pieces to solve this films murder.

From the opening moments this movie is a mess. It begins with a poorly rendered cgi establishing shot. Two teens are parked in a car near a waterfall. Things start to get hot and heavy between them when the boys eyes glow red and he murders her. This is witnessed by one of our main characters Gavin, played by Nick Stahl, who runs for his life.

The next time we see Gavin he gives no indication of having witnessed a murder. He is a jokey stoner. It’s not until 30 minutes in that he references the killing. This combined with the patched together establishing shot leads me to believe the opening scene was actually supposed to take place in the middle of the movie and chopped to the beginning.

We meet our real hero of the film, Steve, played by a way too old James Marsden. Steve is 17. Marsden is clearly 25, not just in his appearance but in the way he carries himself, and the way he acts. He looks so out of place in a classroom and so much older than everyone else in the cast that I never really bought him in the role. He’s a good actor, but his presence suggests more interference. They wanted a handsome actor to lead the movie, and they found one.

Katie Holmes plays the love interest, and that’s all she is here. Her name is Rachel. She plays a sullen teen who broods and says next to nothing. The camera leers at her body in slow motion shots that make me feel gross for the sexualization of this teenaged character. But I think this is the result of interference yet again. There are so many moments when she begins to reveal layers and depth to her character, but the movie quickly cuts away. She begins to show her true self only to be silenced by the edit. The leering shots of her body stand in contrast to the way she is framed everywhere else in the film. When we first see her she has piercings, dark makeup, and unkempt hair. Halfway through the film, the makeup becomes classically beautiful. Her hair style changed to sexy chic, and her piercings are downplayed to the point of non existence. I can only conclude the studio demanded a sexy starlet instead of a full fledged character.

Her relationship with Steve is also nonexistent. They have a burgeoning friendship which blossoms into romance, but they never say anything to one another. Steve talks to Gavin a lot, but we are missing the scene where they become friends. They mostly just share exposition. Why would 25 year old Steve want to hang out with 17 year old burnout Gavin? The missing information indicates deleted scenes. character development could potentially be boring. Developing relationships is secondary to sex and violence in this film.

There’s a random interlude in an asylum that feels out of place. Steve and Rachel sneak around this asylum and looking for something. They are hounded by the patience and pursued by the guards. But we don’t see them sneak in. We don’t see them get in trouble with the guards. We also don’t know what they’re looking for. The sneak is completely self contained and incongruous with the rest of the film. I think the studio imposed this scene on the film. Add some scares. Make it scarier. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense. Just add it.

I wish I could disregard this movie as late 90’s trash. It’s a bad movie. It’s poorly executed. But I find it’s depiction of high school so compelling. It’s an exaggeration to be sure, but it speaks to real high school experiences. The lost outsiders pushed to the edge by social pressures. The parental expectations that are crushing a student. The entitlement of the popular and well off. The toxic boys who think they deserve a woman’s affections. These all combine and feel true. That truth is buried under bad story decisions and clear interference.

The story concerns a well off group of students who are implanted with computer processors that alter their behaviors and moods. It’s steadied wives but for the teenage yuppie set. letter jackets and short skirts rule the school along with plastic smiles and chipper attitudes. They are all high achieving, but they are zombies. They are set off by heightened emotions and become unstable killers. It’s ironic that a movie condemning conformity was crippled by conforming to the demands of the studio.

This is a fascinating piece to watch as a filmmaker or film lover. If you’re looking for a scary Halloween movie, this isn’t it. It’s bad, but I’m a fascinating way. It’s not my cup of tea. C

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