Back in the late 90s, as the post-Scream horror era was beginning, a new television network called The WB (channel 11 here in New York) was just starting to find its ground, thanks to a bunch of shows aimed at the teen and twenty-something market.
Before long, the mainstream horror market was flooded with stars from big WB shows, a trend that would last a good ten years…about the same length of time the network did. You could see these fresh young faces in the line-ups on movie posters like Scream 2, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Halloween H2O, Teaching Mrs. Tingle, Valentine, Urban Legend, Final Destination, Wrong Turn, Boogeyman, House of Wax, and yes, even the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. And then there were these four films….
DISTURBING BEHAVIOR (1998)
Wanting to move away from the oversaturation of slashers of the time, Disturbing Behavior tried something completely different. It ripped off the TV movie The Stepford Children.
A family comes to a quiet little town with their two kids, James Marsden and a pre-Ginger Snaps Katharine Isabelle. James befriends high school outcast Nick Stahl, who hangs with edgy, embarrassingly hyper-90s looking goth Katie Holmes, rebelliously shattering her Dawson’s Creek image.
A chick worthy of the name Joey….
The friends soon become convinced all the popular kids with special blue jackets in school are being brainwashed. The blue boys also happen to be killing people whenever they get horny. In the meantime, when the blue girls get horny, they rip off their tops and smash their own heads into mirrors. Gotta love that misogynistic Hollywood horror double standard.
There’s nothing particularly disturbing about Disturbing Behavior. It’s especially cheap with blood and violence despite its name. And by the end of the film, Katie’s performance is particularly comical. I’m not sure if that is intentional or not.
And then there’s the high school janitor who helps them escape an onslaught of Stepford teens by pulling a Say Anything with a car full of boom boxes…while quoting Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”….
SOUL SURVIVORS (2001)
I’m not sure if the title should be plural or singular, because there may have been only one survivor of the car accident a group of kids gets into when leaving a rave at the beginning of Soul Survivors. But I’m not sure because this is one of those movies in which you never exactly figure out which moments are reality and which are the main girl’s experiences on a near-death plane of existence.
It doesn’t really matter, because the soul purpose… I mean sole purpose…of Soul Survivors is pretty much to put Buffy’s Eliza Dushku in as many lesbionic scenes with an androgynous chick as possible. Because lord knows the dark side of death is loaded with deviants! And seriously, there’s a religious, spiritual aspect to this film, including Luke Wilson as a priest.
Who’s your mommy?
To cash in on the slasher successes of the time, the main girl, having dodged her final destination, is being pursued by grim reapers that look like nothing more than mere mortals in slasher masks. But it kind of works. You can’t really follow this mess of a movie, but it does deliver some horror fun thanks to the scary guys in masks and the incredibly autumnal atmosphere.
There is even a run-in with some trick or treaters although Halloween is never mentioned.
One of the last hit shows to start on The WB before it changed names (brilliantly rebranded as The CW) was Supernatural. And right before it hit the air in 2005, both stars of the show were in horror movies.
In the Jensen Ackles flick Devour, his friend introduces him to a computer game that calls you on the phone and instructs you to do bad things. His friends do start doing some bad things (maybe this should have been called Disturbing Behavior because Devour makes it sound like a vampire or zombie flick), but the best part of the film is really the big black horned and hooved beast that can be seen walking in the dark shadows of Jensen’s house every now and then.
Why do I feel like I’m on Supernatural right now?
For a movie that could have a pretty straightforward plot, Devour branches off into too many directions with plenty of “is it real or fantasy” scenarios. While most of the film plays out on a college campus, it ends up with Jensen and his new girlfriend (Shannyn Sossamon of the awesome film Catacombs) at a cabin in the woods.
The conclusion of the film is quite the twist and makes this suddenly a whole different kind of movie, which is kind of cool yet kind of annoying because none of the subplots feel fully developed when all is said and done. And not surprisingly, it’s a “draw your own conclusions” ending.
In one year, Jared Padalecki scored Supernatural, House of Wax, and Cry_Wolf, which has a pretty cool cast: Julian Morris of Sorority Row, Linda Booth of Wrong Turn and Dawn of the Dead remake, and even playwright Anna Deavere Smith!
The plot is awesome as well. After a girl is murdered on campus, a group of college friends decides to use the Internet to spread a rumor about a serial killer on campus called The Wolf, complete with descriptive stories of the murders. But then…they start getting killed off in the same ways as the victims they created.
Yeah. But we’ve never seen an orange ski mask before. I think….
At least, that’s supposed to be the deal. In actuality, a lot of nothing happens in Cry_Wolf for quite some time. There are loads of mysterious IMs from “The Wolf,” the kids begin losing trust in each other, and they become convinced they are being followed by a masked killer. But it’s pretty much all false alarms…or is it?
Just as the mystery begins to wear thin (at which point the movie is almost over), we finally get a slasher film crammed hastily into the last twenty minutes of the film, complete with a Scream style standoff and a pretty obvious twist. And the kills are all shown as fantasy flashbacks. Some slasher lovers may feel really cheated by this unique approach. But at least there’s a masked killer and some chase scenes. There’s even a brief sequence that takes place on Halloween night.
And by the way, while Jared’s role is pretty big, he is not the “main guy” in the film.