Monday, August 8, 2011

Strange Behavior (1981)

Something funny is going on

This came out during the slasher boom around the early '80s, except "Strange Behavior" dodged the norm from the infamous films of the heyday such as "Halloween," "Friday the 13th" and "Prom Night," as there isn't one killer at large and the murderers aren't cold-blooded psychopaths with twisted pasts, even if their bizarre motivations make them act like maniacal blood fiends.

The continually annoyed and stressed looking local Chief of Police--who never dons a traditional uniform as everything is usually hunky dory--must investigate these mysterious deaths. The strange part is the audience hardly ever witnesses the small town in the grip of fear. Some innocent gets sadistically killed and others go about their lives as if the grass is always greener on the other side with frivolous humor and their regular routines intact. This is the type of plot where there's an "elephant in the room" and only one man detects it, as this focuses on a connection between the Chief, experimenters at the local college and the Chief's late wife fitting right smack in the middle. The story thickens when the Chief's son opposes his stubborn father to make decisions as his own man but gets ensnared by the affiliation.

"Strange Behavior" throws in some distractions to lighten the load from watching violence and blood, such as a subplot between the Chief's son and the newly met, easy-going, blond secretary, as well as the chipper step mother who wants to fill the role of late wife. This takes cues from "Halloween" type killings meets "Altered States"-esque mad science meets "Bond"-like villains meets small town TV mystery/sitcom/love connection. This had the makings to be an esteemed film, though the filmmaker's ambitions were aiming sky high in an attempt to appease a viewer with scenes of the surreal and macabre, as well as the person who wants established, down-to-earth characters, though both sides bump heads to compete and this hardly feels steadily creepy or like it could actually happen as it doesn't fully come together and keep one on the edge of their seat. Even a potential for one last scare wasn't capitalized on. This could have learned from the weirdness that "Dead & Buried" had: to keep the atmosphere alive by feeding throughout.

Rating: 5/10

Stars: Michael Murphy, Louise Fletcher, Dan Shor
Link: IMDB

10 things to learn from "Strange Behavior":

10. Small town America looks oddly similar to New Zealand.
9. If the lights mysteriously go out stay in one spot.
8. Chiefs of Police can drink beer on the job.
7. Horny teenage girls need extra locks on their windows.
6. You don't need doors to operate a car.
5. You don't need dance lessons to have a good time.
4. Don't listen to pretty scientist ladies.
3. Scientists are all a few steps away from madmen.
2. Never, never go back and check a dead person without arming yourself first.

And the most obvious one of all:
1. Never participate in any experiments.

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