There are movies that come along every few years that have something special, something original and exciting. In the age we live in now, it’s very hard to come up with original ideas, ideas that haven’t been thought up before. Before the term ‘torture-porn‘ was a genre era… Before Saw, Hostel and other torture movies became a thing, there was an under-rated movie that came out of nowhere. The movie I am reviewing tonight is simply called Dee Snider’s Strangeland.
This horror movie deals with imagery of body modification, piercings and the underground subculture of alternative lifestyles. This movie is really intense, it also came out around the time that AOL was big. A time where we warned our kids “Be careful who you talk to on the internet” and gave them advice not to meet someone from a chatroom.
This movie is about a psychopath named Carlton Hendricks (Dee Snider of Twisted Sister), who goes under the chatroom name ‘Captain Howdy’. He lures 15-year-old Genevieve Gage(Linda Cardellini of Scooby Doo fame) and her friend Tiana Moore to a party at his house. Once getting there, they realize it’s a trap and they go missing. Her father, police detective Michael Gage starts frantically looking for his daughter, but has no clue where to start. Michael’s niece Angela(Amy Smart) reveals to her uncle, that Genevieve got her kicks from talking to strangers on the internet. They discover that Genevieve last talked to a user named Captain Howdy. Michael gets a call that they found a car in a pond. The car is revealed to be Tiana’s car and they find her body in the car with her mouth sewn shut and pierced.
The tow truck employee Matt Myers, who is played amazingly by genre genius Robert LaSardo (Hard To Kill, King Of New York, Wishmaster) tells him about the subculture of body modification. How gaining control over your body means nothing can hurt you. Matt informs Michael of a club where all the underground alternative people, mingle and meet. Michael and his partner Steve Christian go and check out the club but come up with no leads. Captain Howdy however was in the next room without them knowing, experiencing the small death sensations of body suspension.
Coming up empty Michael decides to go back to Plan A, which is to go in the chatroom and lure Howdy out. It works and they end up getting an instant message from Howdy, inviting them to a party at his house. Of course he leads them to the wrong address, but Michael due to his skill as a detective finds Howdy and lots of victims, including Genevieve. After arresting Howdy, he is found not guilty due to mental illness and spends four years in a mental institution. The institution reveals Howdy has a bad case of Schizophrenia and a severe chemical imbalance, though as long as he takes his medication he can re-enter society.
Of course the towns people won’t let what he did go easily and take the law into their own hands. They try to kill Howdy by hanging him from a tree, his near death brings back the crazy Captain Howdy and now its time for revenge. I wont spoil the rest of the movie but its great. Also this has a great payoff for an ending. It’s a simple movie that has effective thrills and scares that will make anyone nervous. A lot of what is awesome about this movie and what makes it effective is Snider’s performance. Snider becomes Captain Howdy before our very eyes and want him to get revenge.
Another thing I love about this movie is just how dark it is and how this can really happen. For everyone with kids, this is a major fear, a fear of your kid going missing and not returning home. The imagery alone creeps me out, I will never look at piercings the same way again. I am kinda shocked that we never got a sequel to this movie, Snider even had an idea of where he was going to go for the sequel, in regards to the Howdy character. It’s been in development hell since 1998 when this movie first come out.
I also love the soundtrack to this. We got a very hard metal album of sorts, bands like Sevendust, Megadeth, pantera, Coal Chamber, Marilyn Manson and Hed Pe to name a few. The intro song Inclusion by Dee Snider, In my opinion sets this off right from the get-go with the drum beat of the song. Even the lyrics of that song tells you what you’re in for. “I’ve died a thousand times, drowned in a sea of lies, Walked every path, through every door, Oh, how I’ve suffered through, a wicked man can do”.
Dee Snider’s Strangeland is really under-rated, when I talk about this film, a lot of people look at me not knowing what I’m talking about. This still holds up all these years and looks amazing. The imagery, the music and the performances of the whole cast make this one that shouldn’t be missed. It’s a very rare film though, you can get it from amazon video but if you look for the DVD you won’t find it for under $90.
My final thought on this is if you want a movie that will entertain you for 90 minutes, take a shot on this and you won’t be disappointed. I give this film 5 out of 5 skulls. This movie still stands up over time and is a very enjoyable piece of film. I am still holding out for a sequel, maybe the rumored Strangeland Disciple that has been in the works since 98’… I hope everyone can enjoy this original gem like I did.
I am a podcaster/movie reviews that is obsessed with film cinema, I love all types of movies and love having discussions about them. I love talking whats good, bad, what worked and what didn't work in these movies.