Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Strange Behavior (1981)

Strange Behavior is the first in a planned "strange" trilogy from director Michael Laughlin and writer, and future Oscar winner, Bill Condon. The second film, Strange Invaders, tanked at the box office and so dreams of a trilogy were dashed (thanks wikipedia). Well, shit, why don't I just start regurgitating everything I read in wikipedia? Did you also know the song played during the famous synchornized dance routine at the costume party was Lou Christie's "Lightnin' Strikes"? And that the soundtrack is by Tangerine Dream (see also Sorcerer)? Or that the star Michael Murphy was also in McCabe and Mrs Miller, a movie I just reviewed? Well, that shit wasn't in wikipedia and to be honest I didn't even notice he was in McCabe. I found that out when checking imdb to see if he was in The Car (he wasn't).

Anyway, what we got here is a pretty strange attempt at a slasher film and one that, probably, inspired the Katie Holme's (barely memorable) Disturbing Behavior. Kids are dying around the small town of whatever the name of the town in this movie is called, Illinois. We got a kid stabbed in the face, we got a human scarecrow, a shower murder, a near drowning, a back stabbing, etc. Sheriff John Brady (Michael Murphy) is reluctantly on the case. Meanwhile, his teenage son Pete tries to get laid. Throw a mad scientist in here somewhere and we got ourselves a plot.

The murders start out as your typical stalk and slash type killings with all of them, with a few exceptions, being perpetrated against kids. We got a kid home alone. He finds some cigarettes. The lights go out. He gets knifed in the face (in beautiful silhouette). Eventually, things get weirder though. We got one girl stalked while she steps outside of a party. The killer forces her into a pool, she splashes around alerting other guests, and the killer flees. Then...he stops. Takes off his mask and reveals himself as (SPOILER) Pete's best friend. Ok, the weird kid's the killer. Big deal. Later, we see another killing. And another (one scene includes a levitating killer's point of view), and another. Each time the killer is revealed (SPOILER) to be a different kid. Kids killing kids using the ol' stalk and slash technique. Interesting concept.

Well, of course there's something much more sinister than just simply kids killing kids going on. It might involve the lab running tests on local high school kids, a lab run by a mad scientist, who's supposed to be dead. Note to parents: Labs run by mad scientists are probably not good places to send your children. I gotta be honest, I kinda liked this approach. I'm a sucker for hackneyed science in film. However, a part of me wishes they had just kept with the randomness of kids killing other kids. Random usually equals scarier. Hokey science equals Mystery Science Theatre 3000. Still, glad this thing was mostly played straight. Mostly, except for one scene.

That scene being the absolutely amazing costume party sequence I referenced earlier. Forget, for a second, about the flying nun who isn't "wearing any panties" and concentrate just on the synchronized dance scene. Pay attention to Batman (my favorite character in the whole movie and he doesn't even have a line!). It feels completely out of place (which is just one reason I loved it). The dance culminates at about the 2:33 mark. After that, you can stop watching (or, by all means, don't). And, you know what, the rest of the movie isn't too shabby either. We also got genre stalwart Louise Fletcher (Invaders from Mars the remake) looking drunk in a throw away part. I'm pretty sure you'll like this one.


elmo said...

Just watched the dance sequence- this one looks A-mazing.

brian said...

Yeah, it's good. Also, it's available as a Netflix insta-watch. I've probably watched the dance sequence five or six times since I found it on youtube.