Blu-Ray Review: DEAD KIDS (1981, aka STRANGE BEHAVIOR)
Stating the obvious here…being a Fangoria reader for several decades has made me aware of many genre movies, even the ones I have no interest in. But as time progressed and I grew older there are now a lot of movies I knew of that I never wanted to see that I know kind of want to see. Dead Kids is one of them. Though I’ve always known this movie under its alternate Strange Behavior title.
I thought I had a vague memory of seeing it on cable back when I was a kid, but that scene I thought belonged to the movie was not in it when I saw it last night for the first time. Oh, well. I did enjoy the flick though. Lately I’ve been seeing many movies that remind me of other movies due to the subject matter either being intentionally or unintentionally copied, and Dead Kids is no exception. I was unexpectedly reminded of an episode of Batman Beyond that mined a similar concept and there was another film, 1998’s Disturbing Behavior that could almost be called an unofficial remake.
Dead Kids has a nice mix of mystery, slasher and science fiction elements that worked beautifully for me. And speaking of beautifully the cinematography was just that, taking place in the Midwest, Illinois, I think, to be exact, but actually being filmed in New Zealand.
The movie starts right off with an eerie bang as we see the stabbing murder of a teen in his house after the lights have gone out and his parents have left for the evening. The mystery element isn’t about who the killer is since we actually see who did it, but why the kids are making other select kids so dead.
Before we start understanding this part of the flick we are introduced to head of police, John Brady (Michael Murphy), his son, Peter (Dan Shor) and Peter’s best friend, Oliver Myerhoff (Marc McClure). Eager to make some extra money Oliver persuades Peter to undergo some experiments at the local college, which they’re willing to pay students for. Here we meet a Gwen Parkinson (Fiona Lewis) giving a lecture about what she’s been working on for so many years and her dead mentor Dr. LeSange, who’s on video interacting with the lecture.
Peter takes part in these mysterious experiments that revolve around controlling the mind, and the sales pitch Parkinson gives Peter is full of benevolence and the helping of mankind, but we the audience no how full of shit she probably is.
Peter strikes up a romance with Caroline (Dey Young), the secretary in the Psychology Department Peter visits everyday for his “treatments.” During the course of events two more kids are murdered. Each one by a different kid. What we learn from casual conversation from one of the murderers is that he may be just as much a victim as his victim, with no memory of having done anything untoward.
Our mystery elements set in as we learn from John and his girlfriend, Barbara Moorehead (Louise Fletcher) that his wife died from Asthma, that she used to work for this LaSange, and that John blamed him for her death. By the end of the movie this mystery ties in perfectly with all the killings and is capped off by a nice character twist for one of the main characters.
Dead Kids has been released twice prior here in the US (DVD only); once by Elite Entertainment in 2003 and once by Synapse Films in 2008, both under the Strange Behavior title. Severin Films has now gotten a hold of it and has decided to release it again this time under it’s original moniker, Dead Kids, remastered and in blu-ray for the first time ever. The release is actually a DVD/Blu-ray combo.
The 1080p anamorphic high definition 2.35:1 transfer that was done is absolutely breathtaking. It compliments the cinematography perfectly, especially the landscape shots. The Audio is English DTS-MA mono only but sounded perfectly fine to me.
As for the extras, ported over from the previous DVD editions is the commentary with co-writer/associate producer Bill Condon and actors Dan Shor and Dey Young, the Isolated Music Score By Tangerine Dream and the US and International Trailers. Not ported over are the deleted scenes, photo gallery and filmographies. What Severin Films as added is a second commentary with director/co-writer Michael Laughlin (recorded on Skype) and The Effects Of Strange Behavior—An Interview with Makeup Effects Artist Craig Reardon (20:32).
I chose the cast commentary to listen to, as I prefer those to solo director ones. Generally the cast ones are more entertaining, while the director ones are more educational. Yes, I prefer entertaining over educational. Not all the time, but most times. This one was pretty good and I learned Dan Shor was a major horn dog hitting on anything with a heartbeat, even engaged Young.
The Craig Reardon FX featurette was my favorite extra as Reardon discussed how he did the gags for the film, a little bit about his career and the other movies he worked on, which included some nice behind-the-scene photos from The Funhouse (1983), which I don’t think I have ever seen before.