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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 4/2/99



Dee Snider's Strangeland
1998 (1999) - Artisan Entertainment

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Strangeland DVD Film Rating: C-
It's a goofy horror flick, is all. Although I found the IDEA quite intriguing, the execution wasn't as stellar as it could have been. Maybe someday Snider will find his writing legs. Hell, he gave us some classic metal tunes.

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B+/B+
The picture is pretty damn good for an independent horror film. The sound is pretty standard, nothing all that special. The extras, well, they too are pretty cool for a horror flick.

Overall Rating: B+
The movie is watchable, the disc even more so. I have no idea how Artisan did it with this film, but they managed a pretty cool disc.

Specs and Features

91 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at ???), Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, commentary track with screenwriter/star Dee Snider, Collector's Compendium comic insert, music videos by Sevendust, dayinthelife and Kid Rock, production notes, cast & crew bios, film-themed menu screens, scene access (36 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: none, Close Captioned

Review

"We're not gonna take it. No. We ain't gonna take it. We're not gonna take -- anymore."

Yes, those words were a soundtrack to the lives of many late 20 somethings. Dee Snider and his crew of hard rockin', big hair wearin', tight pant havin' mates gave some of us a reason to bang our heads. No, Twisted Sister didn't have the staying power of, say Metallica -- but they did blow Striper out of the water. These days, not much is heard about Twisted Sister as a group. We do know that Dee has gone onto a killer radio career with a syndicated radio show, showcasing great hair bands through the ages. Well, good for him. Oh, and he's also a writer/producer/actor. Now we know what he wants to do with his life. Not only does he wanna rock; he wants to make movies too. His first one is called Strangeland, and I'll tell ya about it.

Strangeland, or for some Carpenteresque reason Dee Snider's Strangeland, is about monsters. One monster, really. A monster named Captain Howdy. Captain Howdy (given stiff life by Mr. Snider himself) isn't a very nice man. He's a sexual sadist and a body art enthusiast. You see, from head to toe, he's covered in tattoos and piercings -- it's all quite evil. He also enjoys luring young people to his home, via the Internet chat rooms, for a little one-on-one piercing. Ears, nose, scrotum -- it makes no difference to our Cap'n. He pierces, kills and rapes without conscience and without any prejudice.

The story of Howdy is a long and sordid tale, so we will leave this focused on the events of the film, which involve Howdy conning a young woman into his lair. He uses the Internet, and if everything that Howdy does on the net proves to be true, I'm no longer working for that Internet porn site. Okay, well, everything would be fine for our new friend Howdy, except the young woman is the daughter of a police detective. Uh-Oh. Kevin Gage plays the crime stopping pop. Action film fans may remember Gage as the white supremacist in Con Air -- he was quite believable. At least more believable than he is in this movie. Gage has the emotional depth of a pair of pruning shears, I'm afraid. Anyway, he does everything he can to find his missing daughter (which isn't much), and eventually is aided by his partner (a very, very, VERY bad Brett Harrelson), and some young blonde hotty friend of the grieving family.

Gage finds the trail left by Howdy, and next thing we know (in a scene ripped right out of Silence Of The Lambs), he stumbles onto Howdy's home, saving his daughter and rescuing a bunch of freshly augmented teens. Oh, and Howdy is arrested, put into prison, found Not Guilty by reasons of insanity and rehabilitated. See, kids, justice can work for you.

For all of you out there saying, "Oh, Doogan, you gave away the movie. I hate you. Oh, and you don't know how to use the word "effect" properly," all I have to say is -- quit your whining. That's only the beginning of our story.

What Dee Snider has done, is create a pretty cool film villain/monster. Captain Howdy could be real; he could be lurking on the net now. I don't truly appreciate the tattoo/pierce thing much -- considering I'm both and don't feel that it makes me evil. Plus, I really don't like the art done on Dee's body. It's not as cool as it could be, they really could have done a better job. Aside from that, Howdy is pretty scary as a villain. The guy knows pain, and he's not afraid of it.

As for the movie? It's all right. You can tell it's Dee's first foray into script writing. The dialogue is flat and forced, and it could have used a good rewriting for the actors to give it some personality. But the story is tense and I enjoyed watching it. Yeah, it's a bit predictable, but not overly so. The direction is low rent MTV, but that's exactly what a movie like this needs. All in all, it's a so-so movie, that could use a good Friday pizza and beer viewing with the boys or girls, depending on your sex. I think a group would have more fun with this than someone by themselves. That's not to say it's not enjoyable - it's just more fun to watch with friends.

The DVD is pretty cool. The image quality sent me back a couple of feet. It always surprises me how good a movie can look on DVD. Especially if the movie is a shoestring-budgeted independent film like this one. The blacks are black, the colors sharp and there's no artifacting that I noticed anywhere on this disc. The commentary included here is by Dee, and he really enjoyed making this movie. You can tell he really loves this flick. Some of the acting or writing flaws he points out as being magically great. It's pretty laughable. He doesn't shed much light, nor is he revealing much - but he is fun to listen to. He's like a bad DJ on a Friday night. There's a handful of extras on top of that - a healthy crop of videos and cast/crew bios, with a trailer and production notes too. Inside most copies, you'll also find a mini-comic from Lady Death creator Brian Pulido, which features an interview with Snider and band Sevendust, as well as some neat artwork by Chaos Comics artists. For those of you with anamorphic widescreen capabilities, Strangeland is 16x9 enhanced, so enjoy. All in all, it's a nice package for such a B grade flick. I'm happily surprised.

Bottom line

Who doesn't like a watchable ,crappy flick every once in a while? This is no Bride Of Chucky or Nightmare On Elm Street, but it's fine for what it is. The disc looks and sounds great, and its got some goodies on it, for those of you who want to know how a movie like this gets made. I'd have to say I'm not a fan of this film, but I'm curious to see what they do with the sequel. Of course, you know there's gonna be a sequel...

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com




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