Release: 1998, MGM/United Artists
Starring: Katie Holmes, Jimmy Marsden, Nick Stahl, Ethan Embry, Bruce Greenwood, William Sadler
Director: David Nutter
MPAA Rating: [R] violence, language, sexuality
A small town has a sinister method of conditioning its unruly youth into an eerily complacent band of upstanding citizens. But there are horrific side effects behind this dark secret...
In a Children of the Corn meets 1984 sort of way, Disturbing Behavior creates the oppression of a forced utopia with a spin of violent horror for added flair. Images of teenagers engaging in mechanically self-destructive behavior and fits of rage unleashed by the most minor triggers makes this film live up to its name. The scientists responsible for the conditioning of the town's children are a relentless lot who will stop at nothing to forge their idea of perfection.
Disturbing Behavior offers a lot of mood and dark atmosphere. The best moments come in the form of tightly wound tension: you don't know what will make one of these kids snap next.
The absolutely bland and drone-like nature of the town's adults (particularly the parents) leaves a lot to be desired. It would be one thing if they showed some signs of comfortable enthusiasm for "the program." As it stands, though, they come across as mindless lemmings who couldn't, for their lives, come up with an original thought or belief of their own. Their one dimensional personalities and blind subscription to their children's conditioning makes them neither threatening nor interesting.
The film also loses a lot of ground when it abandons its dark, horrific thriller set-up and turns into a typical action, full of chase scenes and misguided adventure.