Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dee Snider's Strangeland

Dee Snider's Strangeland (1998)
I hardly know where to begin with a movie like Strangeland. Wait, no, scratch that. That should be "I hardly know where to begin with a person like Dee Snider."

Dee Snider fascinates me. He both attracts and repels.
Sometimes he looks like this.

Sometimes he looks like this.

And this time he looks like this.
And I won't even get into get into what he sounds like when he sings. That's for another blog. The Twisted Sister Novice. And I can't run it because I am not a Twisted Sister Novice. I own their Christmas Concert DVD. Their rendition of "I'll Be Home For Christmas" is heartwarming. And when they follow that up with "Burn in Hell," well, that's what Christmas memories are made of. But that's neither here nor there.

The plot. Dee Snider plays Carlton Hendricks a freak who's into body modification, piercings, tatooing who lurks in chat rooms (IT'S 1998 ISN'T THE INTERNET FUN AND SCARY?) using the handle Captain Howdy, which, incidentally, is the name of the demon from The Exorcist.
(sorry to just spring that on you)

Captain Howdy invites young girls to "party" and then instead puts them in cages and does crazy body modification stuff to them. One such young girl is Genevieve Gage, played by Lisa Cardellini who I know mainly from Freaks and Geeks and as Velma in the Scooby Doo travesties. She gets her mouth sewn shut (see poster).But her daddy, Mike Gage (Kevin Gage) (Yes, his real name is also Gage) is a cop and he hunts Captain Howdy down.And captures him. This is about 45 minutes into the movie.

Captain Howdy AKA Carlton Hendricks is put on trial but declared not innocent by reason of insanity.
He's rehabilitated and he goes home and now he looks like this. Still doesn't trim the ponytail at all. Like, "No, I'm totally normal now because I took my piercings out and put makeup over my tattoos and now I wear a dress shirt buttoned all the way to the collar and a light blue cardigan! What could I do to be more normal?" Well, maybe the huge thick ponytail you're sporting. "WHAT? YOU MEAN THAT'S WEIRD TOO!! I SO DON'T UNDERSTAND LIFE!"

Carlton may be ready to try living in civilized society, but civilized society isn't ready for Carlton. Particularly Jackson Roth played by genre favorite, the great Robert Englund. He and his posse break into Carlton's house, and drag him out into the woods.In the course of events, the medicine he uses to treat his schizophrenia is destroyed.  They string Carlton up, and hang him, leaving him for dead. But the rope Carlton is hanging from is weak and he falls free. Standing up he delivers the very Kreugeresque line "What a rush!"

Carlton Henricks is Captain Howdy again and he's out for blood. And then the movie launches into its final act.

The Good: Dee Snider is actually pretty good. Once he's finally revealed in all his body-modded glory, he's actually a fairly scary villain. Robert Englund is also always welcome. He has a presence that lends legitimacy to an otherwise unmemorable b-movie. 

The Keanu: Mr. Gage (Kevin or Mike, whichever you want to refer to him as) isn't anything special. This may just be a result of having seen dozens of other iterations of basically this same more-or-less disaffected hard-boiled cop before but either way, Gage doesn't bring anything noteworthy to the role. In fact, almost no characters except for Dee Snider get much development all. Which may be the result of the unusually structured plot.

The plot is also a little odd and uneven. It's sort of three movies. 
1. Catching Captain Howdy
2. Carlton Hendrick's attempted reintegration into society and the resultant rebirth of Captain Howdy
3. Catching and killing Howdy

I'm not totally sure what story the movie is trying to tell. If it's Carlton Hendricks story, then it's a movie about a schizophrenic man who society won't allow to be rehabilitated. But the movie ends with Captain Howdy, on fire, swinging on a hook and laughing.'s good he's dying? Or do we think it's bad he's dying? 

The Ugly: A lot of cool/gross needle stuff. Also some people get their eyes and/or mouths sewn shut.

Whatever you do Robert, don't fall asleep.

Also, Dee himself meets a firey...hookish...end.
There's a naked woman who gets huge long needles pushed into her body. I was going to post a picture but then I thought why deprive you, the reader, of the opportunity to Google search "Strangeland + needles + boobs." Which brings me to the movie's Wizard Master.

Strangeland's Wizard Master may be a little controversial (amongst whom? who knows) because this Wizard Master is more like a cameo.We don't even get to see this Wizard Master work his horrifying dark magic, but just for the implied horror this Wizard Master brings to the party, I am proud to name Strangeland's Wizard Master as:

Take a minute or two to stare at the illustration above and contemplate it. How does it make you feel? It makes me feel itchy and like I want to move away from the screen.

Post Mortem: Do I recommend Dee Snider's Strangeland? Well, if you're a fan of Dee Snider, it's a must-see. If you're everyone else, unless you're interested in the sort of films that paved the road for better made serial-killing-based-suspense-thrillers like David Fincher's Se7en, which I recommend much more highly.

Here's the trailer:

And here's a video of Twisted Sister's "Hot Love"

Only Dee Snider!!

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