The CineManiac’s 31 Days of Horror – Day 10: Strangeland

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"Strangeland starts quite strong but unfortunately falters after the initail opening scene."

Strangeland

Director: John Pieplow

Writer: Dee Snider

Starring: Kevin Gage, Dee Snider, Robert Englund

1998

United States | R| 85 mins

The art of body modification is always an interesting subject. It is such a strong topic that divides people; the act of marking, piercing, or cutting your flesh to express yourself, to be closer to yourself through pain and beauty. Tattoos, piercings, branding, scarification – all different forms of body art that both please and disgust the masses to varying degrees. With this as the physical and visual theme, Dee Snider, the frontman from the classic hair metal band Twisted Sister, invites us into a world where pain is pleasure and pleasure is pain. Welcome to Dee Snider’s Strangeland.

Teens are going missing in Helverton, Colorado after being invited to a party by “Captain Howdy” (Dee Snider), an online alias for a killer who uses body modification to torture his victims and bring them to experience “life and death” at the same time. When Detective Gage’s (Kevin Gage) daughter goes missing the trail leads straight to “Captain Howdy”, and upon exposing his sick and twisted dungeon Detective Gage rescues his daughter and puts “Captain Howdy” behind bars. Now four years later, after rehabilitation and a court ruling of not guilty on reason of insanity, Carleton Hendricks, the man behind the alias, is let back into society. But it’s not long before angry parents unleash “Captain Howdy” once again on the people of Helverton and Detective Gage’s daughter is once again caught in the horror.

Strangeland not only deals with societies varying views, both good and bad, on body modification, but also on the dark subject of Internet predators. “Captain Howdy” lures his victims via a local teen chat room under the guise of a hip teen holding a house party. Quite early to address this theme in a film, Strangeland starts quite strong but unfortunately falters after the initial opening scene. Kevin Gage could have come across as a gritty detective character but his lack of emotion (considering his daughter is missing, and potentially murdered), really takes any fear out of the situation and leaves the audience unengaged. However Dee Snider is actually quite convincing as an almost modern-day boogeyman, and any effects involving body modification to his victims are quite realistic. Robert Englund, the original cinema boogeyman, is featured as an angry parent who leads a party to ‘vigilante justice’ against Hendricks.

While it had potential to be quite disturbing and establish a scary, realistic new horror villain, Strangeland veers off course after the first 15 minutes and takes too many predictable turns. The acting, other than from Dee Snider himself, is not up to the emotional level it should bee and the characters are under-developed. Dee Snider had actually tapped into a truly terrifying theme with Internet predators, but being the first film to show his writing talents, he still needs to hone his storytelling skills. Strangeland isn’t as dark as it should have been and the ending isn’t nearly as satisfying, but for horror fans and Twisted Sister fans it’s still worth watching once.

copyright 2010 Tyler Baptist

originally printed at http://reeltoreelradio.blogspot.com/2010/10/modifying-horror.html

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