STRANGE BEHAVIOR is one of the countless slasher films that arrived in the early 80s, but this is somewhat less routine in its science fiction subtext set in a small Midwestern town. Brought to you by the same director/writer team that gave us the more ambitious STRANGE INVADERS in 1983, Elite Entertainment finally gives the almost forgotten film a satisfying home video release, something well overdue.
STRANGE BEHAVIOR discloses an onscreen murder almost immediately. A boy is seen in his room smoking what will be his last cigarette, only to be knifed, which is shown in a mediocre silhouette shot. So unimpressive is the scene, that it resembles one of those "low budget horror film within a low film" cheats. Later, young Pete Brady (Dan Shor) in need of quick cash agrees to take part in some behavior experiments being conducted at a local college on the suggestion of his pal Oliver (Marc McClure of from the "Superman" and "Back to the Future" series). Big mistake!
In probably the strangest party scene that 80s cinema has ever yielded, a bunch of teens dressed like characters from 60s TV shows get excited over 15-year-old Lou Christie records and dance in unison! A fat kid dressed appropriately as "Hoss" Cartwright from "Bonanza" is trying to push his car while his 13-year-old(!) date has her foot on the gas. Out of nowhere, a stranger in a black cape and a rubber "Tor Johnson" mask slaughters Hoss. The young girl runs away, is chased through a field (reminiscent of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE), has the back of her leg sliced, and ends up (safe) in a swimming pool back at the party. The killer is revealed to be Pete's friend Oliver, and the next morning he is having breakfast with his family as if nothing wrong had happened.
As teenagers (including the mayor's son) are found mutilated, Pete's dad, police Chief John Brady (Michael Murphy from COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE) and the rest of the town are baffled. Everything seems to relate back to the weirdo experiments at the college, executed by the stiff Doctor Parkinson (British actress Fiona Lewis, DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN). Pete becomes romantically involved with Parkinison's receptionist (Dey Young), who doesn't have a clue to what's going on behind closed doors. As the experimentations on Pete commence, he becomes a zombified, emotional wreck and in the meantime, a sinister character believed to be dead and buried years ago, may or may not be.
STRANGE BEHAVIOR is indeed an original take on the slasher angle, but somewhat flawed by leisurely pacing and a confused plot. Shot in New Zealand (a convincing approximation of a secluded North American town) with mostly vacationing reliable American thesps, the film does deliver in mood and eerieness, maintains enough suspense, and some of the gory murders really create an impact despite unelaborate effects. The cast is rounded out by Oscar winner Louis Fletcher (miscast as widower Murphy's girlfriend), veteran and always old Charles Lane (from dozens of "I Love Lucy" episodes) and the incredible Scott Brady as a tough Chicago cop (what else?) brought in to show a small town how to handle such complicated things.
STRANGE BEHAVIOR got limited theatrical play when it was released here by World Northal (a small company known primarily for distributing Kung Fu flicks). Video and TV versions suffered from some of the worst cropping ever witnessed, leaving the film with no compositional value whatsoever. Elite Entertainment has released STRANGE BEHAVIOR on DVD in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio (with Anamorphic enhancement), and now Louis Horvath's Panavsion cinematography can be fully evaluated for the first time since the theatrical release. The print has some minor dirt and damage in spots, but otherwise the transfer looks splendid with bright color and sharp detail, and surprisingly, very little grain. The audio is very satisfactory, and there is even a separate Spanish-language track. The music by Tangerine Dream is also playable by itself on a separate isolated track, and knowing this band's following and lack of soundtrack album available, this was a wise choice on Elite's behalf.
A commentary is provided with
writer Bill Condon and stars Dan Shor and Dey Young. All three have had strong
careers since making STRANGE BEHAVIOR (Condon was recently up for an Oscar for
his CHICAGO screenplay), and have a ball watching the film again after 20 some
odd years. Condon reveals a lot of behind-the-scenes factoids (explaining why
the title was changed from the original "Dead Kids" and that Klaus
Kinski was initially cast) and the actors recall a lot as well, having many
good laughs in the process. Two short deleted scenes are also included (with
optional commentary by Condon) but are insignificant two the final cut. Theatrical
trailers for the Australian (as "Dead Kids") and U.S. versions are
included, as well as extensive filmographies, a still gallery and trailers for
other Elite releases. (George R. Reis)
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