October 12, 2011

Horror-A-Day: Strangeland

All right, yesterday I said that things needed to turn around with regards to my horror movie watching this month. There has been an extraordinary amount of junk coming across my path. Yes, I know it is no ones fault but my one, I am the one stumbling across these titles and pressing play. Going in I know I am going to regret them. So, again I say things need to turn around. This edition is a marginal step up from the prior, but not terribly substantial. Tomorrow is another day.

This time around I went with a movie that I have seen before and one whose soundtrack far outshines it. It is Strangeland, the late 1990's pseudo-slasher that seems to want to be a throwback to the 80's while also looking to be a commentary on then new and emerging communication technology.

The movie is most notable for having been written by and starring one Dee Snider, frontman of the notable hard rock/metal act Twisted Sister. He takes on the role of Carleton Hendricks, a modern tribalist with a penchant for tattoos, body piercing and scarification. He trolls teen chat rooms using the name CaptHowdy to lure girls into his torture chamber.

As the story goes, he attracts a couple of girls into his home where he goes about playing his torturous games. The problem is that one of the girls, Genevieve (Linda Cardellini) is the daughter of a grizzled cop, Mike (Kevin Gage). He goes on a singleminded hunt to find him, and in short order he is arrested and thrown in an asylum.

The story, halfway through the movie, jumps ahead a handful of years and we see the release of a supposedly rehabilitated Hendricks, personified by his wearing of glasses and a cardigan, and not looking that much unlike F. Murray Abraham. As he attempts to reintegrate himself into society, the angry neighbors, led by Jackson Roth (Robert Englund), send out a mob to lynch the guy. Of course, he survives and reverts to his former evil self and sets out for revenge.

There are a number of problems with this movie. The directing is lackluster and does nothing to build the atmosphere. However, I think it is in the writing where the movie is betrayed the most. The Captain Howdy character is nicely written and is part of an interesting character, but everyone else is rather bland and flat. Also, the use of technology is commendable, if a bit laughable. The chatroom just feels a little silly and the performances of those using it doesn't help. It is not terrible, but it has a lot of room for improvement, as it stands, the screenplay feels like a good early draft ready for polishing.

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