In a blatant attempt to ride my coattails to...umm...fame and fortune, regular reader and local drunken curmudgeon Brennon Slattery suggested a little stunt wherein he and I would post reviews of the same movie on the same day. We'd be like Siskel and Ebert- somehow cooler than they are because, well, who isn't...yet somehow sadder than they are because we're doing this in blogs: relegated to the Intermawebnets rather than the television. And yes, I know Siskel's dead...but I don't know the new Siskel's name, because 1) I don't care, and 2) I don't have time to care- that's how cool I am.
Regardless of what you want to call us, Brennon and I synchronized our watches, got matching bowl haircuts and airbrushed sweatshirts, and sat down to watch the 1981 weird-a-thon Strange Behavior on couches many miles apart. Quite a stunt, eh? Well, I hope Brennon got a matching bowl cut and airbrushed sweatshirt- I'm really just taking his word for it.
"Holy crap, waitaminnit," you're thinking, "did I just read 1981? Another horror movie from that magical year? Ce n'est possible!" Oh, sure it is, my Francophile friends! Strange Behavior crosses from bad to good to so-bad-it's-good to what was that, exactly?
The short of it: a video professor from beyond the grave wows college psychology students with in-class demonstrations of behavior control on chickens. From a huge monitor, Professor Video tells his assistants to put the cutest little antenna hats on the chicken, then he instructs the chicken to raise its legs one at a time. Everyone oohs and aahs and volunteers for the department's behavioral control experiments. I mean, if it worked on a chicken...
Eager kids go to sessions in "Department 104"- they're given pills, injected with weird stuff in their eye sockets, you know, the standard psychological stuff. These treatments have their benefits: kids lose weight, gain better memory retention, etc. There are some minor drawbacks, however: kids become mindless stabbing, mutilating machines, only to "awaken" hours later with no idea what they've done.
Unfortunately, Strange Behavior dips its fingers into too many storylines, and that's where it falls apart. Student Pete is participating in the experiments to make some quick cash, but Pete's father, the police chief, has a vendetta against Professor Video and Department 104 because he feels they're responsible for his wife's death, blah blah blah. But before it gets all convoluted, this movie rocks! The scenes showing the zombified kids doing their dirty deeds are outright bizarre: they're a strange mix of lethargy and vicious brutality. It's like the killings take place in slo-mo, but they seem endless. They don't stop, and people get stabbed in some really cringe-inducing places: the hand, the calf...it's very, well, strange. While this flick isn't overly gory beyond blood, there's dismemberment scene that's treated the same way as the stabbing scenes. The obvious detachment on the face of "the fat girl" as she hacks off some kid's arm in the shower is silly, awful, and somehow unsettling.
The early-80s cheese is nicely in place with an extended costume party scene: kids are drinking beer and dancing to Frankie fucking Valli. Yes, they're having a rollicking good time, jumping around to Valli's annoying whiny screech, and then...somehow...it turns into a dance routine. The drunken teens form lines like a dance troupe, like they're on Fame, and they go to town. Perhaps this is the "strange behavior" the title is referring to...unless they mean the scene with Student Pete's dad clipping his toenails at the dining room table.
I love this guy, one of the party guests who's also one of the drugged-up experiment kids...and also Pete's best friend:
He kills the fat bully guy that everyone hates, then relentlessly chases the fat bully guy's date...all the while wearing a creepy oversized mask that leaves him looking like the offspring of Uncle Fester and Tor Johnson. How could you not love a movie with this guy in it?
I haven't read Brennon's Super Synchronized review of Strange Behavior yet, and if you haven't either then go here and do so. As for me, I'll give this flick 7 out of 10 aerobicizing chickens. It's a little good, a little bad, weirdly brutal...it's got chickens doing leg lifts and that mask, what more can you ask? The alternate title for this is Dead Kids, and you just gotta love a movie with a title like that, even if it's the runner-up title.
I really dig this concept of synchronized reviews of movies we've not seen before, and if anyone else out there wants to join in the fun, just drop me a line. GASP! I'll call it The Final Girl Film Club! Yeah! I'll be like Oprah and her Book Club! Except, of course, I'll be cooler than she is because...again, well, who isn't. I'll be sadder, though, because I'm not a powerful billionaire who knows the cast of Friends.
In other news, I loathe that show Friends.