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The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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“Strange Behavior”: A tale of mind control and mystery in Galesburg

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The first horror movie ever filmed in New Zealand was released in 1981, and for some reason, they decided to set it in Galesburg. Going by many names, most notably “Strange Behavior” and “Dead Kids,” this movie was an homage to the mad scientist films and pulp horror of the 1950’s. 

“Strange Behavior” is a slasher horror film that focuses on the story of Pete Brady, a high school senior in Galesburg, who is stressed about his upcoming application to Galesburg University. His classmates keep getting murdered. and the police have no idea who is doing it, but this is no worry to him—because he is so focused on furthering his education.

In fact, everybody in Galesburg is very unconcerned by the growing number of teenagers that are being killed. 

Pete’s friend Oliver brings him to Galesburg University, where they sit in on a very spooky lecture featuring a mind-controlled chicken that is being given by a recording of a dead professor. Here, we meet the mysterious and diabolical Professor Gwen Parkinson, who conducts many extremely unethical experiments at the university.

From that moment on, the viewer is led into a world of Parkinson’s crazy and unethical science experiments being conducted at Galesburg University, which leads to a twist ending that is in some ways actually shocking, mainly because a lot of the build up to it doesn’t make much sense.

Though there is no Knox College in this universe, the Knox influence is still felt when there is briefly a scene of some kids throwing a frisbee on the college campus, right before finding what they think is a dead body.

This movie feels like it shouldn’t exist, and yet it does. It was originally supposed to be shot in Australia, but they found that Australia actually doesn’t look like Illinois, so they decided to move filming to New Zealand. If you squint, and also have no idea what Illinois looks like, you could conceivably assume that they are in Galesburg. 

When looking at the cast and crew of the film, you can find that the film features Louise Fletcher, most notable for her role as Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and that it was written by the same guy that directed “Twilight: Breaking Dawn” parts one and two, Bill Condon.

The setting of the film in Galesburg most likely came from the other writer and director Michael Laughlin, who was from the town of Minonk, Illinois—about 90 miles away from Galesburg. Sadly, Laughlin passed away in October of this year.

“Strange Behavior” is not a film you go into looking for something deep or even something that makes that much sense. No movie that contains a costume party featuring an extended synchronized dance sequence that gets interrupted by the murder of some teenagers is going to be a piece of highbrow cinema. This is a film that you watch because you know that you are going to be able to laugh at it and make fun of how bad it is.

Though the Wikipedia page for the film refers to it as “a seminal piece of New Zealand cinema” and reassures me that it has a “large” cult following, the film itself is entirely unremarkable. The only reason that I know it exists and have subsequently shown it to as many people as possible is because I happened to stumble upon it one day. 

I recommend watching this movie if only because every time it is mentioned that they are in Galesburg you are able to go “Hey! That’s where I live!” and then move on, ultimately left confused and unsatisfied. 

★★☆☆☆ 2/5

This review accompanies a review of “School Days”, the novelization of this film, which can be found here.

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