Disturbing Behavior (1998) Review

Disturbing Behavior is an inept thriller, completely lacking in thrills, a solid story and any sense of pacing. But before I get too ahead of myself I should probably say that Disturbing Behavior is the 1998 sci-fi thriller starring James Marsden, Katie Holmes and Nick Stahl and is brought to us by a good chunk of the X-Files crew, including director David Nutter.

Behavior brings us the story of Steve whose family has recently moved to island town Cradle Bay. New to the school, Steve finds himself thrown together with Gavin, UV, and Rachel, three rejects who show him around and warn him about the Blue Ribbons, a group of A+ students who suck up to adults and look down on everyone else. Gavin tries to convince the others that these Blue Ribbons are brainwashed former students who now occasionally go batshit crazy whenever they get turned on. After Gavin gets turned into one of them, Steve and Rachel start to investigate the mysterious project of Dr. Caldicott.

Behavior really does feel like an X-files episode. And not a good one. The script itself seems like a rejected episode and the actual content of it probably would fare better in the 45 minute time slot. It has the same formula of an opening scare and an ending cliffhanger, but without any of the charm of our favorite FBI agents and with the same flimsy supporting characters taking up more screen time.

As stated before, the script is incredibly flimsy with the story really only taking up about half of it and the rest easily being superfluous. Sure you could call it character development, but then I’d have to laugh in your face. The pacing is ungodly slow, with the actual investigation of the mystery not starting until an hour into the movie. The first hour is just the characters stewing in this predicament and it slowly getting worse, but they still refuse to do anything until the movie pulls a Scream 3 and they find a videotape of Gavin reiterating what he already told them, but this time it gets them off their asses. There are entire scenes and sequences that could be removed and no one would care. For example the scene with the girl going insane because she really what to fuck Marsden doesn’t fucking matter. The whole subplot of the janitor doesn’t need to be there, he just needs to be a genius, that’s all. The subplot of the horny Blue Ribbon hitting on Rachel serves its purpose in that it adds “scares” but if the plot was actually more substantial, it wouldn’t need to do that. The actual investigation/climax moves at such a quick pace you almost get whiplash and it becomes incredibly obvious that the writer did not think it through. There are tons of plot holes and the “resolution” of the story is so poorly explained, that we know there are still Blue Ribbons out there before the movie itself pulls that dumbass twist. Now this could have worked in an episode of X-Files, because you don’t notice such things as easily during a TV show, but its so painfully obvious here because any suspension of disbelief got thrown out two jock fights ago.

The acting ranges from hammy/campy to mediocre/flat. James Marsden occasionally presents a real emotion, but for the most part he just walks around looking at things. Not that I really blame any of the actors, since the character flaws are very script related, and to be honest their goofy performances did make it more entertaining.

The movie is solid on a technical level, extremely indicative of it’s crews origins. Alas if only they had the story to back it up. I would have loved for The X-Files to kick off an era of really good sci-fi/fantasy thrillers, but alas Dangerous Behavior is just another example of how that rarely works out. If you’re looking for a fun riff, I might recommend this movie, but for anybody else steer clear and just watch X-Files on Netflix. Dangerous Behavior is only available on DVD, not that you should go looking for it.

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The Tall Man (2012) review

When her child goes missing, a mother looks to unravel the legend of the Tall Man, an entity who allegedly abducts children. -imdb.com

Any fan of the Slender Man web series will have heard of The Tall Man as being a Hollywood attempt to capitalize on this phenomenon. The people who think that haven’t seen the movie. No, the promise the movie makes in its hype, its poster, and its first 20 minutes are soon dashed by convoluted storytelling and a piss poor reveal.

The movie is well made, and on a technical level it does everything to par, but doesn’t shine too bright. It feels like X-files meets Supernatural meets Mothman Prophecies, and that’s a comfortable feeling for me. After all, this should be a more script driven movie, not an acting, directing, special effects or production design driven movie. And that’s too bad in this case since the script fails to deliver. It’s not scary, it’s not thrilling, and it’s very convoluted.

The movie tries to juggle too many character relationships in the beginning, leaving you lost as to what’s going on. By the time you catch up new characters are introduced and the process starts all over again. Jessica Biel does a fine job as the lead nurse Julia, but she becomes victim to a script that takes her character in confusing directions. She’s not the only victim, with many of the characters acting very stupid or very strange. The side characters are competently acted with many of the actors being TV faces, but there’s not enough to keep you interested when the movie goes off the rails. Speaking of going off the rails, about halfway through the movie takes a twist, leaving you not surprised, but confused. You’re forced to think through what you just figured out and reevaluate it. In the process we are left with no protagonist and nobody to particularly care about. Even the young mute girl Jenny has confusing motivations and actions and we just aren’t sure what to think of her. The action on screen is vaguely intriguing, not because the plots good or the characters are interesting, but because of the mystery of The Tall Man. The movie does a good job of setting up the mystery and leaving it vague as to its true nature. We want to know who The Tall Man is and for 40 minutes after the main twist we just sit and wait for an answer. This is where the film falls apart. If what’s going on doesn’t directly help solve the mystery, then we just plain don’t care. Filler isn’t a perfect word to describe these scenes since they do help explain some character motivations (better late then never), but they don’t service the plot as much as the movie would have you think.

The ending is where all this build up, all these twists and turns should pay off… and of course it doesn’t. An amazing ending could have saved this movie, but instead of the supernatural mystery we’re promised, we end up with the blandest, most disappointing reveal I’ve seen since The Box. It’s not worth waiting an hour and forty minutes to see, but just in case there is some poor soul who wants to, I won’t spoil it. It does leave a bitter taste in my mouth and when you look back at the film you can come up with a dozen better twists and endings.

The Tall Man is not something I recommend to anybody. It’s not a film you should follow something else up with, but rather it’s a movie you follow up with other, better things. For those who liked the paranormal beginning I point you towards Marble Hornets, Mothman Prophecies, and The X-Files. For those who liked the more “Town is Evil, twists and turns” aspects of the movie I recommend the short lived series Happy Town, the anime Higurashi: When They Cry or once again The X-Files. All these are far more worth your time then The Tall Man, but then again so is watching funny videos of cats so that’s not saying much.