In the late 90s, there was an unmistakable renaissance in teen-driven horror and thriller movies, sparked by the massive success of Wes Craven’s 1996 slasher film Scream. Suddenly, every studio wanted their piece of the teen horror pie, leading to a flurry of movies aiming to capture the essence of what made Scream so compelling: its wit, self-awareness, and use of fresh young talent.
Amidst this deluge, 1998’s Disturbing Behavior, currently streaming on Amazon Prime, made its mark; however, it was not as prominent as some others, including The Faculty – a film released the same year with a very similar plot.
Disturbing Behavior, streaming on Amazon Prime, features rising stars, including James Marsden and Katie Holmes, but was overshadowed by The Faculty.
Disturbing Behavior is set in the quaint town of Cradle Bay, where Steve Clark and his family relocate after a family tragedy. Steve soon discovers a sinister secret when he observes an unnaturally perfect group of students, known as the Blue Ribbons, displaying robotic and occasionally violent tendencies.
Digging deeper, he learns that the school’s staff, led by the enigmatic Dr. Caldicott, is brainwashing the town’s rebellious teens into conformist, high-achieving students, but with side effects that include aggressive outbursts.
Teaming up with fellow students Rachel and Gavin, Steve attempts to expose and stop Dr. Caldicott’s nefarious operations. However, as their investigation progresses, they are hunted by the brainwashed students and the adults complicit in the scheme. The trio must navigate the perils of high school life while battling against an institution that seeks to rob them of their individuality.
Disturbing Behavior boasts a collection of up-and-coming talent. James Marsden, before his X-Men days, plays the protagonist, Steve Clark. Katie Holmes, fresh off Dawson’s Creek, plays the film’s female lead, Rachel. Nick Stahl, who later starred in movies like Terminator 3, plays the disturbed Gavin Strick.
Behind the camera, David Nutter, primarily a television director known for his work on series like The X-Files, directed the film. While Disturbing Behavior didn’t skyrocket Nutter to Hollywood’s A-list, he continued to maintain a prolific career in television. He even went on to direct several episodes of HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Disturbing Behavior may have been somewhat overshadowed in its initial release, but it stands as a significant and thought-provoking addition to the realm of ’90s teen cinema.
Despite its potential, Disturbing Behavior encountered challenges post-production, undergoing numerous re-shoots and edits. This tumultuous development likely contributed to its modest box office earnings, with the film grossing $17.5 million domestically. Moreover, it found itself overshadowed by other genre films, especially The Faculty.
The Faculty, which came out several months after Disturbing Behavior, bore striking thematic similarities but gained more traction. Fueled by a strong marketing campaign in its nascent stages during the release of Disturbing Behavior and featuring a prestigious cast and crew including Kevin Williamson, the writer of Scream, and director Robert Rodriguez, The Faculty managed to steal the limelight.
The Faculty also featured a more well-known group of up-and-coming talents than Disturbing Behavior, such as Elijah Wood, Usher Raymond, Jordana Brewster, Josh Hartnett, and Shawn Hatosy.
Both The Faculty and Disturbing Behavior explore the theme of conformity within high school environments, portraying students undergoing drastic personality changes influenced by external threats. Both tackle the theme of conformity in high school settings, depicting students who undergo drastic personality shifts due to external forces.
In Disturbing Behavior, a sinister school program seeks to transform unruly teens into model students, albeit with terrifying side effects. The Faculty, on the other hand, spins a tale of alien parasites taking over teachers and then students, aiming to create a homogeneous and subservient community.
Despite its potential, Disturbing Behavior encountered challenges post-production, undergoing numerous re-shoots and edits.
Despite these thematic similarities, The Faculty surged ahead in the cinematic race. On Rotten Tomatoes, The Faculty has a score of 55 percent from critics, while Disturbing Behavior has a significantly lower score of 33 percent. The former’s narrative depth, coupled with the snappier dialogues and Robert Rodriguez’s unique directorial style, made it a more engaging watch.
Disturbing Behavior may have been somewhat overshadowed in its initial release, but it stands as a significant and thought-provoking addition to the realm of ’90s teen cinema. This film delves deep into the complexities of teenage conformity, shedding light on the various challenges and pressures young individuals face while attempting to navigate their path to self-identity.
It unquestionably warrants its place of recognition among its contemporaries, and for those who have yet to immerse themselves in its narrative, the availability of the film on Amazon Prime offers a convenient opportunity to explore its compelling storyline and engage with its relevant themes.