Director -Michael Laughlin
Cast – Dan Shor, Michael Murphy, Louise Fletcher, Fiona Lewis, Arthur Dignam, Dey Young, Marc McClure, Scott Brady, Charles Lane
Release Year – 1981
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I had somewhat high hopes for Strange Behavior, mainly because it is a slasher film from the year 1981, the year of Friday the 13th Part 2, The Prowler, and My Bloody Valentine, three of the greatest and most notable slasher films ever made, and I must say that my hope for Strange Behavior achieving “rare gem” status was not achieved. Strange Behavior gives us an interesting story and some decent kills, but in the end failures on execution kept this from being anything but moderately enjoyable for me.
When a strange doctor offers to pay young high school students to take part in a medical study, they think nothing of the study and only of the “easy money”, and accept the offer. Little do they know, the charismatic doctor injects them with a seemingly harmless drug that will soon turn them into heinous killers who act on his command, shaking up the small town and allowing the town’s police chief one last vengeful shot against the doctor who escaped the grasp of the law many years prior.
Horror films involving evil people using naïve individuals as pawns to carry out their heinous acts are not new to the genre, but in my experience they are seldom, if ever, used in the slasher sub-genre, so I appreciate this Australian/New Zealand/US flick giving us slasher fans something that we rarely see. The majority of the film plays off of the medical experiments, following Pete Brady(son of the police chief), who signed up for the drug trials and soon realizes that he has found himself way over his head. We are given a few kills, although not many for a “slasher” flick, and as far as the nature of the kills I only found maybe half of them worthwhile, with the others just generic and nothing special. During the latter half of the film we come across more from Pete’s dad, Chief John Brady, and the reasoning behind his vengeful hatred of the doctor, as well as a twist that I did not see coming but at the same time did not find very shocking. As far as the overall storyline goes it’s an OK one, which with good direction could have possibly come out a positive watch, but that was not the case.
Director/co-writer Michael Laughlin did an OK job with this film, which compounded with the film’s OK storyline really does not add up to anything more than a mediocre experience. I will admit, Strange Behavior had some good horror at times, and I applaud Laughlin for that, but it really could have been much better, and in fact, it SHOULD have given the flicks’ unique storyline for the slasher sub-genre. The budget is of a low amount, and it shows with Laughlin’s sometime’s laughable execution of the kill sequences, as well as most of the acting performances involved. Personally, I did not have a huge problem with the kills being as cheap as they were, but had the execution of the kills been better than the film could have had a higher rating. I have seen other flicks with the same low budget do more with the horror, and that is why I am not so forgiving.
Overall, Strange Behavior gives us a cool premise for a slasher film but sadly fails to capitalize on the good elements provided. We get some positive horror here and there, but it comes and goes so quickly that the vast majority of the film was nothing special, resulting in just a mediocre watch at best.