Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Strange Behavior (1981)

Kids. These days-well, actually always-you hear about all the bad things the kids are up to. "Billy shot his best friend", "Kids are taking drugs", "Wild sex parties", etc. It always seems like kids are up to something bad. Well, at least according to the local news. Anyways, it's therefore no surprise that kids (or at least teens and college students) doing bad things will forever be a staple for horror, and why they always end up getting killed or end up killing. Well, both things happened in Michael Laughlin and future "Gods and Monsters", "Kinsey" and "Dreamgirls" director Bill Condon's creative take on the mad scientist and slasher movie tale "Strange Behavior."

Taking place in the good ol' US of A (but filmed in New Zealand), "Strange Behavior" tells the tale of Pete Brade (Dan Shor, looking like a dead ringer for Jesse Eisenberg), agrees to volunteer for some experiments run by Dr. Gwen Parkinson (Fiona Lewis.) Meanwhile, Pete's sheriff Dad John (Michael Murphy) is investigating a series of murders that seem to be being perpetrated by the teen populace of the town. Of course, it doesn't take a genius that Parkinson's experiments are the cause of this, but at the same time, a man thought to be dead may be the mastermind...

An intriguing take on the standard "dead teenager" formula, "Strange Behavior" has plenty of things that help it to stand out from it's slasher movie ilk. The kills are bloody, but they don't wallow in bloodshed and creative death scenes, instead opting for a surreal, almost dreamlike quality. There also aren't the usual scenes of teens behaving stupidly-in fact, the kids here are more realistic than the ones we usually get in these kinds of movies. Even more notable is that, whilst not a horror comedy, that there is a morbid humor to some of the proceedings, and that director/writer Laughlin and co-writer/associate producer Condon are having fun with the material. The acting is also all around fine, with Lewis in particular standing out as the icy, cold hearted Dr. Parkinson. Oh, and nice score by electronic music icons Tangerine Dream.

If there are any problems, it's that the pacing at times is a bit too slow, and the parental aspect of the film feels unexplored. The return of Dr. Le Sange (Arthur Dignam) could offer a bit of a "sins of the father" sub-plot, but that mostly feels untouched on. Also, it would have been nice if we got to know a little bit more about Dr. Parkinson, as she's such a chilly persona, but we never do learn much about her.

That out of the way, those flaws are minor, as "Strange Behavior" is worthy of the cult following it's received, and definitely worth a look for those wanting a little bit more out of their "dead teenager" movie.

Rating: 8/10

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