Dee Snider is one sick freak. STRANGELAND is the 1998 film he wrote to much hullabaloo – the guy from Twisted Sister writing and starring in a horror movie. The result is a genuinely twisted (had to use it, sorry) piece of sado-masochistic sickness. And for that reason, I almost have to recommend it. It’s so truly nasty that it earns props for not holding back. Sadly, what prevents a recommendation is the fact that Snider’s script and the overall execution of the movie are sub par. The nasty make-up and effects can only get you so many points, but ultimately it takes a little something more to make a fun horror flick.
Snider plays Captain Howdy (with a nice nod to THE EXORCIST), an insane S&M freak who gets off on luring teenagers into his basement and then doing all sorts of unspeakable things to them. Think of his place as a tattoo/piercing joint gone horribly horribly wrong. Also horribly wrong is the dialogue in the opening scenes. The opening involving two teenage girls chatting online rings so false, you may find yourself laughing out loud. “What’s IM mean?” asks one girl. While chatting with Captain Howdy, one teenager gets excited when he asks, “Do you like hip hop?” She gets all giddy and says out loud, “Oh yeah, I love it!” If that’s all it takes to lure teenagers, our public education system must be failing us in a big way.
Of course, once the girls get to his house, the horror kicks it up a notch. Piercings, spikes, and lips sewn shut – just to give you an idea. Too bad one of the girls he lured is the daughter of a local police inspector, Detective Gage. Gage starts researching this amazing “internet” thing (reminds me of George W. Bush and the infamous “internets”) and his early foray elicits even more laughter. Apparently in 1998 computers were magical boxes that only a few select chosen people had any understanding of, because Gage has no clue. Eventually, however, he catches on and heads into Captain Howdy’s underworld. In fact, before long, he actually captures the guy and sends him to prison and then a mental institution.
Flash forward 4 years, Captain Howdy is cured and ready to re-enter society. Unfortunately, minus all his crazy make-up and piercings, we can now see that Captain Howdy is really no more than…aging rock star Dee Snider. Integrating into society isn’t so easy though – and the neighborhood, led by Bill O’Reilly wannabe Robert Englund – rises up and lynches Captain Howdy. That’s right – they actually hang the guy. Vigilante justice taken a bit too far if you ask me. Sadly, this hanging doesn’t actually kill Captain Howdy, but instead leads to a major regression. Captain Howdy becomes worse than ever, and once again turns his sights on Gage’s daughter.
How nasty you find this movie comes down to how much the idea of body piercing bothers you. I live in New York, so I should be accustomed to the sight but the movie made me cringe on numerous occasions – hanging people by meat-hooks or piano wire, piercing male genitalia, so on and so forth. I won’t lie, there were times I had to look away – and I’ve seen just about everything.
The nastiness is something I have to give the film credit for, but that’s about it. The script, plot, acting, and direction all pretty much are terrible. Snider needs to keep his day job as the ex-rocker on every VH1 countdown show ever made. But hey, give him credit for trying, and for going all out with the graphic nature of the film – it’s not for the faint of heart.
RATING: ** (out of four)