Strangeland

In the production notes for “Dee Snider’s Strangeland,” the former Twisted Sister lead singer said that he came up with the idea of an ultimate horror film after the birth of his daughter. Snider claimed that he all of a sudden became aware of all of the evil and cruel things that can befall a child in the real world.


strangelandWhat began as words of wisdom blossomed into a horror rock opera, which eventually became “Strangeland.” Written by and starring Snider, “Strangeland” proves that Snider is a better singer than a writer-actor, and even then, he’s only a marginal singer. “Dee Snider’s Strangeland” is the celluloid equivalent of a prostate exam: 90 minutes of poking and prodding that doesn’t leave you wanting more. In the same production notes, Snider comments that he watched as many horror-thrillers as he could before writing “Strangeland.” It shows. There isn’t one original thought in this mess of a film that is neither horrifying or thrilling, unless you count Snider’s appearance.

This guy is freaky. He may be a nice guy in real life, but he makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and being Norwegian, that’s a lot of hair. Not nearly as much hair that’s on the head of cyber stalker Captain Howdy (Okay, Snider saw “The Exorcist.”). Howdy surfs the Internet looking for vulnerable young women he can lure into his S&M den of torture. Don’t you hate it when people on the Internet pretend to be something they’re not!

Captain Howdy’s lair looks like he had the Marquis de Sade do the decorating, or did they just borrow the set from “Silence of the Lambs.” Captain Howdy makes a big mistake when he lures two curious teenage girls into his web of terror, not realizing that one of them is the daughter of local police detective Mike Gage (Played by Kevin Gage, no relation). When his daughter Genevieve’s friend turns up dead, Gage realizes that he must square off against Captain Howdy on the maniac’s terms.

Why not? Everything else in the film is derivative, so why not every plot point? The only thing missing in this film is Jodie Foster and Morgan Freeman. Everything is so matter-of-fact in “Strangeland” you soon begin to realize it’s nothing more than a vanity project for Snider. The budget and production values hint that Snider had to get a second mortgage on his house to make the film. Not that any of this matters. “Strangeland” is so ordinary that if the wooden performances don’t force you to hit eject on the remote, then the sight of Robert Englund strapped naked (not really, look closely and you’ll see a patch covering his naughty bits) on a torture table will. Filled with unpleasant images, dreadful performances and trite dialogue, “Strangeland” is the kind of film you rent when everything else at the video store, including “Julia Child’s Bass Gutting,” are out.

The DVD is the Unrated version, which equates into a couple of extra moments of nightmarish images (No, not Snider naked, thank goodness). “R” rated or Unrated, it doesn’t matter. It’s all the same at the end: Bad!

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: [ ] 20/20 [ X ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind

Clean transfer in the film’s original 1.85:1 widescreen ratio (enhanced on DVD at 16:9) shows little compression artifacts and no pixelation. The colors are strong but not overly saturated, while the flesh tones are okay. The blacks and shadows hold up incredibly well, but the garish neon’s seem hot.

HEARING: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf

Okay, so the movie is not that great. It does feature an impressive 2.0 Dolby Stereo Surround track that more than gets the job done. It’s hardly definitive, but the stereo mix is strong and the surround sound pumps out of the speakers with glee. The high and low ends are clean, with murmuring basses and crystal clear trebles. The dialogue mix is decent but since the actor’s rarely speak any words of wisdom, it’s not that important. No hiss or distortion, but that all depends on your opinion of heavy metal music.

ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Poor

Closed captions in English for the hard of hearing.

COORDINATION: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ ] Weak

Lucky me! The “Strangeland” DVD comes with a Dee Snider audio commentary. My nipples are hard now! I’m glad they’re not pierced. Thank God “Strangeland” is only 91 minutes, because if this had been the length of “Meet Joe Black” or “Beloved” I think I would have killed myself. Hey, Dee Snider is probably a nice guy in person. He sounds like a normal Joe on the commentary. I don’t really care. His observations and reflections on his career and making a feature film are only marginally interesting. But then, I wasn’t expecting much more, so I really wasn’t disappointed. The DVD also features handsome and appropriately creepy main menus, but the scene access menus are rather unspectacular. There’s also two soundtrack promotions, including a full-length video of “Black” by Sevendust. Whatever. Finally, the DVD features cast & crew film and biographies, and production notes.

PROGNOSIS: [ ] Excellent [ ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ X ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal

I think Twisted Sister said it best: We’re not going to take it anymore!

VITALS: $24.95/Unrated/91 Minutes/Color/36 Chapter Stops/Keepcase/#60498

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: DEE SNIDER’S STRANGELAND

BIRTH DATE: 1998

HMO: Artisan Entertainment



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