Strange Behavior: Special Edition (US - DVD)
Gabe continues his slightly belated look at Synapse's Elite horror re-releases...
A brutal killer is targeting the teenagers of the peaceful town of Galesburg, Illinois. As the bodies pile up, Sheriff John Brady (Michael Murphy) suspects the killer may be connected with the local school’s experimental psychology department. There is something sinister about the school ‘research’ program on behavioural control, and Brady is determined to uncover the truth. But he better find the answers fast before his own son (Dan Shor) gets drawn into the strange experiments himself!
It’s not often one finds oneself in the presence of a Slasher film co-written by a future Oscar winner, but there isn’t much to suggest that Strange Behavior is your average Slasher film. Written by Bill Condon, who would dig himself Oscar gold writing and directing Gods and Monsters (a personal favourite), Strange Behavior exists somewhere between the oddball humour of Repo Man, the pulpy paranoia of Dead and Buried (both films also feature show stopping needle in the eye moments), and the vicious violence of Friday the 13th.
Stylistically speaking Strange Behavior’s pretty low-key. Director/co-writer Michael Laughlin is really good at filling the 2.35:1 frame with interesting and balanced imagery, but he doesn’t concern himself with too much flashy editing or camera movement. Some of the set and costume design is a bit garish, but the lighting isn’t pushed to comic book levels (the teams follow-up film, Strange Invaders, would go the other direction). The wry dialogue and generally subdued acting works to increase this subdued sense of drama and comedy, which in turn gives the whole film a kind of dreamy feel.
I wasn’t sure if I liked the strangeness of the majority of the film until I realized how hard the gory scenes were hitting me. Strange Behavior really earns its ‘R’, but doesn’t go outside the realms of what’s usually allowed for the rating, so the impact of the violent scenes is hard earned. It took me a bit, but I finally understood that the impact came out of the slightly ‘off’ nature of the rest of the film. The frankness of the violence is jarring almost every time, leaving a deep impression among the otherwise amusing film.
Once again, this anamorphic transfer is actually Elite Entertainment’s doing. The overall print quality is pretty impressive for a low-budget Aussie release from 1981, but features more obvious faults than the average Elite or Synapse release. Details are reasonable, but the entire transfer has a soft quality that kind of muddles things a bit. Colours bleed into each other ever so slightly around the edges, and are rife with noise. Blacks are plenty deep, and contrast levels are spot on, ensuring that even the general softness doesn’t overpower the details. Grain and noise are a consistent issue, and become a little thicker in the final act, while the level of print artefacts is generally higher than expected.
Strange Behavior is presented in no-frills Dolby Digital Mono sound, and frankly speaking, I don’t think anyone should expect any different. The film’s audio is mostly clean, and clear of any big distortion. The track is reasonably warm, and pretty deeply mixed for a single channel production. I notices a few hints of break-up during the really high volume dialogue, and some of the sound effects fall a little flat in the overall mix, but there’s nothing unexpected or particularly bad to report. The film was scored by none-other than Tangerine Dream, and is just as effective as the majority of the group’s other scores. Though you’re given a shot at listening to the keyboard heavy music on an isolated track elsewhere on the disc, you aren’t likely to miss anything on the English track, as music seems to take president volume-wise. For your records this is the same Mono track that accompanied the Elite release, and some of the New Zealand and Aussie actors have been dubbed by Americans.
There’s nothing new in under the extras screen for fans to get too excited about (hang onto that Elite disc). Extras start with a fun and buoyant commentary track featuring co-writer Bill Condon, and lead actors Dan Shor and Dey Young. Though it seems the participants haven’t seen the movie in a while, they remember their behind the scenes stories. The fact that the actors especially don’t seem to remember the specifics of the film itself actually makes for a more entertaining track, as Young especially, is shocked by the bloody scenes every time. There’s a lot of laughing with the film, but no one’s afraid to laugh at the film a few times either.
The rest of the extras include a trailer gallery (including the film under the alternate title of Dead Kids), two brief deleted scenes, with optional Condon commentary (running about two minutes), a photo gallery, filmographies, and the aforementioned isolated music track, which is presented in Dolby Digital Mono sound.
Slasher fans really owe it to themselves to check out Strange Behavior. I assumed I was in for a spoof or deconstruction of the genre, but the actual film is really just an original slant on the whole dead teenagers thing. The tone is so back and forth that I’m sure some viewers will be turned off, but the film’s flavour is so unique I can’t help but be impressed. All you guys that already own the Elite release won’t want the double dip, but the price is right for the rest of us.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 28th October 2008
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono English, Spanish
Extras: Writer/Actor Comemntary, Deleted Scenes, Trailers, Galleries, Filmographies, Isolated Score
Easter Egg: No
Director: Michael Laughlin
Cast: Michael Murphy, Louise Fletcher, Dan Shor, Dey Young, Fiona Lewis
Genre: Animation, Horror and Thriller
Length: 99 minutes