Disturbing Behavior

USA/Australia 1998

Reviewed by Danny Leigh


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

The small town of Cradle Bay, the US. Grieving over the suicide of their eldest son, the Clark family arrive from Chicago. On his first day at the local high school, remaining son Steve is introduced to its various cliques by alienated Gavin Strick and his albino friend U.V.: among them are the Blue Ribbons, an exclusive gaggle of overachievers. Later, Steve meets school guidance counsellor and Blue Ribbon-Svengali Doctor Caldicott, and Rachel, another of Gavin's friends. Gavin tells Steve he believes the Blue Ribbons are a murderous cult.

Meanwhile, a Blue Ribbon attacks Rachel in the school boiler room, only to be foiled by janitor Newberry. That evening, Gavin discovers his parents are planning to have him recruited into the Blue Ribbons. Terrified, he flees. However, the next day at school he appears among the Blue Ribbons. Steve and Rachel steal the school's staff files and learn Caldicott came to teaching from a career in neuropharmacology. They realise the Blue Ribbons are victims of his experiments in mind control. Steve and Rachel are captured by Caldicott, but Newberry intervenes once more, saving the pair in a kamikaze rescue bid which simultaneously wipes out the Blue Ribbons. Caldicott is also killed. Steve, Rachel and U.V. depart the now-deserted Cradle Bay. Weeks later, in an inner-city high school, a new student teacher is introduced to the class: Gavin Strick.


Although mostly a recasting of Bryan Forbes' overwrought thriller The Stepford Wives (1974) as a morality tale for Marilyn Manson fans, Disturbing Behaviour nonetheless wastes little time in pillaging stylistic touches from a slew of other sources. Barely a frame goes by without a touch of Twin Peaks, a scintilla of The Lost Boys, or even - in its hysterical finale - a quick rummage through A Clockwork Orange (1971).

However, director David Nutter's primary influence is The X Files, for which he directed several episodes, and Disturbing Behavior exudes - notably in the jarring fades to black which pepper the film - an essentially small-screen sensibility. Of course, this approach has its compensations (the pacing, for example, is agreeably brisk). On the whole, however, Nutter seems ill at ease with the physical expansion, and his narrow range of atmospheric panning shots and extreme close-ups of eyeballs only goes so far.

Nutter also hovers nervously around the semi-parodic without ever embracing the downright frothy tropes of, say, The Faculty. The dialogue in particular oscillates between one-liners so studied they could almost pass for Gregg Araki ("Self-mutilate this, fluid girl," remarks one anonymous Blue Ribbon baddie) and impossibly banal, apparently straight-faced moments of exposition ("Neuropharmacology?" quivers Steve, "You mean mind control?"). Ultimately, the same schizophrenic impulse pervades the entire film: it's too pompous to be camp, but too silly to be genuinely engaging.

None of which is helped by the script's reliance on leaden clichés. The characterisation consists mostly of lazily written archetypes - the chisel-jawed hero, mourning the dead brother, the feisty chick sidekick with her barbed-wire tattoos, and, with Gavin before his transformation, the Holy Fool. Yet even dealing with such ciphers, Nutter cannot maintain any narrative coherence: amid the series of virtual non-sequiturs which precede the resolution, for instance, we're left wholly in the dark over why the nefarious Caldicott would actually want to brainwash a bunch of pimply ingrates into improving their grades and side-parting their hair. As a consequence, all that remains is a confused paean to a generic notion of individuality, tailor-made for the noble outsider fantasies of perpetual adolescence.


Armyan Bernstein
Jon Shestack
Scott Rosenberg
Director of Photography
John S. Bartley
Randy Jon Morgan
Production Designer
Nelson Coates
Mark Snow
©Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc (US, Canada & their territories)
©Village Roadshow Pictures Worldwide Inc (rest of the world)
Production Companies
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents in association with Village Roadshow - Hoyts Film Partnership a Beacon Communications production
Executive Producers
C. O. Erickson
Phillip B. Goldfine
Scott Rosenberg
Elisabeth Seldes
Associate Producers
Max Wong
Brent O'Connor
Production Co-ordinator
Jasmine Elsworth
Unit Production Manager
Brent O'Connor
Location Manager
Bruce Brownstein
Post-production Supervisor
Sean Stratton
Assistant Directors
John G. Scotti
Jim Brebner
David Footman
Katherine Keizer
Script Supervisor
Cristina Weigmann
Lisa Beach
Coreen Mayrs
LA, Associate:
Sarah Katzman
Vancouver, Associate:
Heike Brandstatter
Camera Operators
Rod Pridy
Will Waring
John Holbrook
Steadicam Operator
Rod Pridy
Psychologically Altered Visions
Kathryn Peaslee
Encore Visual Effects
Visual Effects Producer:
David Byrnes
Digital Artist:
Claus Thorbjorn Hansen
SGI Technical Support:
Manny Cubillas
Digital Opticals
Encore Visual Effects
Senior Visual Effects Supervisor:
Richard Kerrigan
Senior Visual Effects Producer:
Susan Abbott-Weller
Digital Effects Supervisor:
Kent Feeler
Visual Effects Co-ordinator:
Julia Nessling-Douglas
Digital Artists:
Cari Chadwick
Robert Minshall
Lead Animator:
Adalberto Lopez
Robert Powers
John Bavaresco
Digital Film Services
Digital Film Works
Visual Effects
Northwest Imaging & FX (Vancouver)
Visual Effects Supervisor:
Paul R. Cox
Senior Digital Compositor:
Randy Egan
Digital Compositors:
Paul Norris
Matthew Talbot-Kelly
John Bowyer-Smith
Bernie Melanson
Special Effects
Joel Whist
Art Director
Eric Fraser
Set Designers
Gary Myers
Patrick Banister
Set Decorator
Louise Roper
Costume Designer
Trish Keating
Set Supervisor
Sandra Watson
Make-up Artist
Lisa Love
Special Effects Make-up
Toby Lindala
Hair Stylist
Janet MacDonald
Main Title Sequence Designer
Kathryn Peaslee
End Titles
Hollywood Title
Pacific Title/Mirage
Music Supervisors
Sharon Boyle
John Houlihan
Music Co-ordinators
Jason Alexander
Micki Stern
Music Editor
Jeff Charbonneau
Score Recordist/Mixer
Larold Rebhun
"Got You (Where I Want You)", "Gods of Basketball" lyrics by Adam Paskowitz, music/performed by The Flys; "Million Rappers" by/performed by Phunk Junkeez; "Drivetime Radio" by Grant Shanahan, performed by Eva Trout; "Blown" by F.O.S., Don Van Stavern, performed by F.O.S.; "Every Little Thing Counts" by Andrew Pinching, Graham Butt, performed by Janus Stark; "Harvestor of Sorrow" by Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield; "Psycho Clogs" by John Dragonetti, performed by Jack Drag; "Monster Side" by Mark Aston, James Denham, Nicholaj Juel, Luke Bullen, performed by Addict; "Ever She Flows" by/performed by Treble Charger; "Hail Mary" by Tim Skold, performed by Skold; "Hole in My Sole" by Matt Caisley, Ted Hutt, performed by Hutt; "Have You Never Been Mellow" by John Farrar, performed by Olivia Newton-John; "Danke Schoen" by Bert Kaempfert, Milt Gabler, Kurt Schwabach, performed by Wayne Newton; "Sometimes" by Steve Driver, Jim Reece, performed by Driver; "Can't Smile without You" by Geoff Morrow, Chris Arnold, David Martin, performed by Barry Manilow; "Flagpole Sitta" by Evan Sult, Sean Nelson, Aaron Huffman, Jeff Lin, performed by Harvey Danger; "Hello" by Elia Bel, Jim Reece, performed by Once Upon a Time; "Ice Ice Baby" by Robert Van Winkle, Floyd Brown, Mario Johnson, Freddy Mercury, John Deacon, Roger Taylor, Brian May, David Bowie; "Another Brick in the Wall" by Roger Waters; "Warriors" by Michael Weatherly, Tony Henderson, Fernando Martinez, Craig Stevens, Benito Coronado, performed by Scarface featuring Rag Tag
Sound Design/Supervisor
Stephen Hunter Flick
Sound Mixer
Rob Young
Re-recording Mixers
Sergio Reyes
B. Tennyson Sebastian III
Chris David
Jon Taylor
Eric M. Erickson
Eddie Bydalek
Supervising Sound Editor
Fred Judkins
Dialogue Editors
Jeff Kaplan
Peter Brown
Alex Gonzales
Jim Matheny
Sound Effects Editors
William Jacobs
Patricio Libenson
Angelo Palazzo
Michael Jonascu
Supervising Editor:
Judee Flick
Cliff Latimer
Edward Steidele
Dominique Decaudian
Thor Benitez
Matthew C. Beville
Supervising Editor:
Dana Gustafson
Frank Smathers
Medical Adviser
Dr. Ed Amos
Stunt Co-ordinators
J.J. Makaro
Dave Hospes
Animal Wrangler
Debbie Coe
James Marsden
Steve Clark
Katie Holmes
Rachel Wagner
Nick Stahl
Gavin Strick
Steve Railsback
Officer Cox
Bruce Greenwood
Doctor Caldicott
William Sadler
Dorian Newberry
Chad E. Donella
Ethan Embry
Allen Clark
Katharine Isabelle
Lindsay Clark
A.J. Buckley
Chug Roman
Crystal Cass
Lorna Longley
Tygh Runyan
Dickie Atkinson
Tobias Mehler
Andy Effkin
Derek Hamilton
Trent Whalen
P.J. Prinsloo
Robby Stewart
Terry David Mulligan
Nathan Clark
Susan Hogan
Cynthia Clark
Sarah-Jane Redmond
Miss Perkins
Natassia Malthe
Mary Jo Copeland
Chris Owens
Officer Kramer
Robert Moloney
ferry guy
Dan Zukovic
Mr Rooney
Michelle Skalnik
Randi Sklar
Lalainia Lindbjerg
Brendan Fehr
Brendan-Blue Ribbon
Garry Chalk
Fiona Scott
Fiona-Blue Ribbon
David Paetkau
Tom Cox
Erin Tougas
Ryan Taylor
Ryan-Blue Ribbon
Jay Brazeau
Principal Weathers
Carly Pope
John Destry
middle-aged man
Glynis Davies
coupon lady
Cynde Harmon
Mrs Atkinson
Larry Musser
Andre Danyliu
Gillian Barber
Judy Effkin
Stephen James Lang
Peter LaCroix
Mr Strick
Lynda Boyd
Mrs Lucille Strick
Daniella Evangelista
Daniella-Blue Ribbon
Sean Smith
school bus boy
Zuzana Marlow
Shannon's mom
Tamsin Kelsey
Detrice Wagner
Suzy Joachim
female doctor
Fulvio Cecere
Bob Wilde
shadow man
Judith Maxie
shadow woman
Doug Abrahams
security guard
Christopher R. Sumpton
screaming man
Jarred Blancard
flossing man
Kate Braidwood
make-up girl
Stephen Holmes
toothbrush boy
Mark Aviss
bald man
Julie Patzwald
Betty Caldicott
Stephen E. Miller
MarciaRose Shestack
Robert Lewis
Dee Jay Jackson
assistant principal
Kendall Saunders
disrespectful student
Sean Amsing
Columbia Tristar Films (UK)
7,553 feet
83 minutes 56 seconds
Digital DTS sound/DTS stereo
Colour by
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011