Remember this little gem from years back? The pre-cert video on Iver Film Services, under the title DEAD KIDS? Or the butchered 18-rated re-release as SMALL TOWN MASSACRE? Or even Vipco's hideous retail video, HUMAN EXPERIMENTS??

For those who have only vague recollections, let me jog your memory �

The film opens with a stylish scene of sustained tension, as a teen male creeps around his parent's darkened house to fix the power-cut that has just occurred. Sure enough, as he begins making shadowed bird impressions with his hands on the wall, another silhouette comes into frame - and stabs the male in the head several times. No gore, but very effective.

Next we meet Pete (Dan Shor, GHOULIES 3; STRANGE INVADERS), a young student anxious about getting accepted into a decent college after school finishes. He is the son of Sheriff Brady (Michael Murphy, SHOCKER) and is sick and tired of people comparing him to his father - and thus is determined to make a success of himself.

Pete's friend Oliver (Marc McClure, Jimmy Olsen from the SUPERMAN movies - he was also in both versions of FREAKY FRIDAY, and played 'Boris' on both occasions � just a bit of trivia!!) introduces him to a science teacher, Mrs Haskell, who is keen for hard-up teenagers to take part in a few simple experiments on human behaviour. The details are vague, but what initially seems important is the pay: $100 a day!

Pete is keen for the extra income and agrees to sign up as a guinea pig for the experiments. Bad move - as we learn at a frat party that goes horribly wrong for a canoodling couple who fall foul of a knife-wielding maniac in a Tor Johnson mask (nice touch). As the rest of the party-goers scare the killer off before he has the chance to finish off the girl, we see the madman remove his mask to reveal himself as � Oliver. Strange behaviour, indeed!

The cops quiz the teens who were present at the party about the murder - including Pete and Oliver. But no-one has any idea who the killer could be, or why they would wish to kill one of their sect.

Unperturbed by the previous night's events, Pete keeps his appointment with Mrs Haskell and commences his experiments. Meanwhile his father gets busy at the morgue looking over the recent murder victims, and trying to get to the bottom of a convoluted, implausible, yet thoroughly entertaining and fast-moving plot.

STRANGE BEHAVIOUR is graced with a great script (by director Laughlin and Bill Condon) that is chock-full of interesting, quirky characters and unexpected events taking place. Wrongly labelled as a slasher film in the 80s, instead what we have here is an enjoyably original and sometimes silly mish-mash of several horror and sci-fi themes, remarkably gelling together superbly as a whole.

The scare set-pieces are masterfully crafted by Laughlin, and while they don't skimp on the gore they rely more heavily on excellent performances, genuine tension and nice slow-building escalations into full-on terror. The music by Tangerine Dream helps immensely on these occasions too, being very reminiscent at times of Rick Wakeman's electronic score for THE BURNING.

Most of the cast are American (including the excellent Louise Fletcher, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST), and the film is set in the States. Despite this, this is a New Zealand production! Knowing this titbit of insight does make you realise that the script at times is contrived and overly Americanised in order to add commercial weight to the production � but it hardly matters when the onscreen shenanigans are so enjoyable.

Finally, someone in the UK has had the good sense to release this great little slasher-cum-mad doctor-cum teen anxiety film onto DVD. That someone is our great friends at Hardgore!!

Image clarity on the main feature is fantastic. Presented in anamorphic 2.35:1, the presentation here shits all over any version of the film I've ever seen on video. For a start, they were all hideously pan-and-scanned - Laughlin's widescreen compositions add a wealth of visual pleasure to the film when seen in all their glory. The print here is also much sharper, cleaner and brighter than I've ever seen the film look. Full marks to Hardgore on the video front.

The film was shot in mono, and as such that original soundtrack is preserved here. It's amazing clean and consistent. Again, full marks - although no subtitles for the hard of hearing.

Unfortunately, there is a catch with this Hardgore release. The BBFC. Yes, the cunts have cut the film by 41 seconds to remove a scene of 'suicide technique' in case any of us were impressionable enough to copy it (and didn't have access to pills, a noose, an exhaust pipe, etc).

The extras on this Hardgore disc are few, but worthy nonetheless.

The theatrical trailer (bearing the title DEAD KIDS) is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 and looks great. It's a well-paced and slickly edited 2-and-a-half minutes that manage to sell the film as a gory shocker successfully.

A text interview with co-writer Bill Condon follows. This is conducted by Calum Waddell and consists of intelligent, informed questioning that is met by Condon with comprehensive and interesting answers. The pair discuss the GODS AND MONSTERS director's career from it's start with STRANGE BEHAVIOUR right up to the forthcoming KINSLEY. It's a good read - about 17 screen pages in total.

Finally, Hardgore offer us the regular selection of 'other attractions' � in this instance these include THIRST; PATRICK; INTRUDER; TURKEY SHOOT; MANIACAL; FACES OF DEATH (actually an entertaining compilation of scenes from all four FACES films - set to a hilariously inappropriate pop song); I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE �

Menus are static and silent - pretty boring actually. The main feature can be accessed via 18 chapters. The disc arrives in a keepcase packaging and is Region 0 PAL encoded.

STRANGE BEHAVIOUR was overlooked by many during the 80s (possibly down to the continual re-releasing of the movie under different titles. But now it is ripe for re-evaluation as one of that decade's most satisfying shockers. And, despite the BBFC interference, Hardgore have released a beautiful-looking version of the film. Be aware though, there is an uncut Region 1 DVD available �

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Hard Gore
Region All PAL
Rated 18
Extras : see main review