Picks and Pans Review: Strange Behavior

updated 11/16/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/16/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST

No one claimed this was another Psycho. But compare it to any other low-budget horror film of late, and Michael Laughlin's directorial debut is impressive. Formerly a little-known producer, Laughlin proves mastery of his genre by using fine camera work as he delivers the requisite series of slayings (the victims are teens in a Midwestern college town) and believable special effects (read: blood). In fact, despite the constraints of a 31-day shooting schedule, he rises far above the level of, say, Friday the Thirteenth Part II. For one thing, the story (written by Laughlin and 25-year-old William Condon) holds together well enough to make us care whodunit. Indeed, the script is sometimes funny (in a campy, Rocky Horror Picture Show kind of way) and sometimes touching. Creep-film veteran Fiona Lewis, as an evil psych professor, has the best part. Louise Fletcher (Nurse Ratched of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) is, unfortunately, wasted on an unimportant role, and Michael (Manhattan) Murphy mostly spins wheels as the police chief. But as his son, Dan (Wise Blood) Shor is perfect. Not everything about this film is good, but more things work than anyone would have expected. (R)

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