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Strangeland (1998)

DVD Cover (Lions Gate)
Horror, Psychological Thriller, Sadistic Horror
John Pieplow John Pieplow
Kevin Gage Kevin Gage
Elizabeth Peņa Elizabeth Peņa
Brett Harrelson Brett Harrelson
Robert Englund Robert Englund
Linda Cardellini Linda Cardellini

5.2 / 10 - 15 votes

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Review by Crispy
Added: January 29, 2009
It's not exactly an uncommon thing for artists in the musical realm to make the jump into the cinema world. Usually it involves minor supporting roles in hood movies for hip hop artists and horror movies for rock artists, but few actually go the lengths it takes to put their own brainchild on screen. Dee Snider, of Twisted Sister fame, is one such artist, writing and starring in Strangeland.

In 1998, Chris Hansen was not yet warning people about the dangers that lurked on the Information Super Highway and most parents had no clue about their kids' computers. Detective Mike Gage (Kevin Gage) and his wife are no exception, and had no idea their daughter, Jenny (Linda Cardellini), was upstairs with her friend in a chat room. Innocent enough, except she's caught the attention of Captain Howdy (Dee Snider), who invites the two to a party at his house. The two excitedly head out the door, and we get to see just how much of a sick fuck Captain Howdy actually is. You see, he believes that the path to enlightenment is through pain and body modification, and has taken it upon himself to enlighten others as well. Obviously, Mike is putting everything he has into the case. Aided by his niece, he goes online trying to flush Captain Howdy out of his hole, but he has no idea that his target is not only demented, but damned clever as well.

This is one of those movies that truthfully isn't that great, but the potential is practically screaming. Dee Snider's script wasn't anything special in its own right, but the character he created is one of the scariest to grace film in awhile. What makes Captain Howdy so unnerving is the knowledge that there is a very real probability that several real life counterparts are out in the world somewhere. In a lot of ways, this simple truth is scarier than any monster or undead killer you can fathom. Now, even though Snider's script was by no means phenomenal, I think it was the direction that really hampered this one.

You see, we have John Pieplow in the director's chair. To put this in perspective, he had only directed one exploitation movie two years prior to this, and nothing since. I know that all directors need to start somewhere, but this was not the film to cut your teeth on, especially with a rookie writer. One of the more notable examples is how much drag suddenly appears in the middle of the movie. The film is basically split into three sections, which I won't describe due to spoiler concerns, but I will say that the middle section is a lot slower than the ends. A bit more experience in both departments could have kept that part a bit more engaging.

Despite Howdy's love of torture, gorehounds are going to be very disappointed with this. This is certainly not Hostel, and while the red is certainly there, it's not delivered in buckets. Rather than focusing on the bloodshed, instead we get a lot of silhouettes and close up of reactions. It's quite effective though, and certainly unnerving. With that said, this isn't all imagination work either, and a fair share of hooks and impalements are shown.

This had very real potential to do for the internet what Jaws did for the ocean; it just never took off the same way. It's a shame that he can't get Strangeland 2 off the ground, since the man can apparently come up with some demented characters. With some more experience in the movie world and a better director, I think Snider could turn out some twisted mindbenders. As it stands, it's definitely worth a viewing, but don't expect much of it. 5/10.
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bluemeanie #1: bluemeanie - added 01/29/2009, 10:32 AM
Leave it to Dee Snider to suck as a filmmaker too. 2/10.
Cryptorchild #2: Cryptorchild - added 01/30/2009, 09:45 AM
Can't blame the guy for trying. And really, it could have been a lot worse. I thought it was ok, nowhere near great but I can enjoy it. I'd give it a 4/10 I guess. Hell I'd even bump it up to a 5 soley on the fact that Snot's final song, Abscent was in the movie and on the soundtrack.
Farley #3: Farley - added 01/31/2009, 11:54 AM
Fangoria said they were having open casting calls for extras for Strangeland 2.
Ginose #4: Ginose - added 01/31/2009, 03:17 PM
HEY! I remember this episode of "Are You Afraid of the Dark?"!
Oh, wait. This had nipples.

Chad #5: Chad - added 01/08/2012, 05:45 AM
I guess I'm in the minority, but I really liked it. A classic? Nah, but it was pretty fun none the less. 7/10.
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