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Strange Behaviour  [DVD]
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The peace is broken in a small town when a brutal serial killer begins a terrifying campaign targeting local teenagers. Law enforcement officer John Brady begins to suspect the killer may be linked to the high school's psychology department and their research into behavioural control. When Brady's son becomes involved in these experiments his determination to find the killer takes on a more personal nature.
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Originally known as Dead Kids, Strange Behavior is an interesting addition to the slasher sub-genre. Shot in New Zealand but set in small town USA, the movie has an odd dreamlike dislocated feel, which is heightened by the distinctive Tangerine Dream score. The main theme is a haunting mixture of acoustic guitars underpinned by electronic sounds that really works well with shots of the suburban streets. Unusually for a slasher, the story nods at science fiction rather than thrillers and horror. There's a faint echo of A Clockwork Orange as well as classic mad scientist schlockers.
Fans of 80s Goth music and Nick Cave in particular might be interested to learn that one set-piece slaughter is soundtracked by "shivers" which was a tune recorded by the Boys Next Door, but is credited here to The Birthday Party. There's also a pretty good 80s "new wave" pop song "jumping out of Windows" by a band called the Ritz. Lou Christie's "Lightening Strikes" soundtracks what looks at first like a very cheesy party scene involving a mixture of masked and unmasked youths.
Director, Micheal Laughlin went on to make the extremely odd and surprisingly influential Strange Invaders. The cast includes Michael Murphy, Oscar winner Louis Fletcher, Dan Shor and Fiona Lewis.
Strange Behavior is not that highly regarded, but is one of my personal favourite. 90s teen horror "Disturbing Behavior" could almost be remake.
The presentation is in widescreen and the picture quality is not bad at all, but a little grainy. The DVD also features an interview with co-writer Bill Condon.
Made by the same crew who would go on to make the 1983 film "Strange Invaders", this film plays out as a homage to the pulp horror stories of the 1950's, and it shows throughout. The DVD cover alone shows one of the killers in a Tor Johnson mask standing in front of a red-and-white car with fins. In the movie itself, we also have hammy murder scenes, black-and-white films, old-time music, and a detective who looks like an aged Dick Tracy.
The story the film tells cleverly combines the slasher and psychological thriller genres - a large facility situated outside of Hillsburg, Illinois is running a series of experiments, and their human guinea-pigs turn serial killers when the experiments are complete. A sub-plot deals with a vendetta between the sheriff and one Dr. LeSange, whose work in the 1950's triggered the experiments used in the facility, as well as the death of the sheriff's wife. What seems to be a jumbled mess of story and plot comes together very nicely in the final showdown between the sheriff and a quite-undead LeSange.
Although this film wasn't as much fun as "Strange Invaders", it is still worth a look, and it will keep you in suspense right to the end.
This slasher from 1981 is a bit different from others from the time and though far from being one of the best of the genre it's still a good one. The cast and acting is better than most and there's also an effective score from Tangerine Dream. The photography is good and it contains some good suspense too. The story goes way off the usual slasher ground and to a point works,but it gets a bit silly and tedious as it goes on. There are also slower parts and some bad scenes, for example when at a party the students are dancing and then begin to jump in front of the camera! Stangely enough it was filmed in New Zealand even though it's supposed to be Chicago. The gore is OK, but if you watch this for the first time be prepared for a different take on the genre. 3.5 Stars.