MOVIE: Strangeland (1998)

I fully, FULLY, expected this movie to totally suck. I’ve heard about it several times over the years — it’s sort of a cult movie, I gather. But seriously, DEE SNIDER? Wrote and starred in a horror movie? That just can’t be good. And yet, at the same time, it absolutely must be seen.  I mean, how am I expected NOT to watch a movie written by and starring the frontman of Twisted Sister, I ask you?

As it turns out, this movie isn’t really all that bad.  I know!  I was surprised too!  Dee plays a majorly-tattooed and seriously-pierced crazy guy named Carleton Hendricks who goes by the chat room handle of “Captain Howdy.” He sits around in the evenings chatting with teenage girls online and once he’s got them kind of suckered in, he invites them to a party at his house. They foolishly show up, and he ends up tying them up and then torturing them for days on end (Carleton believes that in order to be fulfilled, you have to experience pain through piercings, brandings, and some other extremely bizarre Saw-like torture devices — he’s not actually out to kill his victims, just to enlighten them). When one of the teenage girls has a heart attack from the stress of the pain,  though, things start to get out of control, and Carleton is quickly found and arrested.

He’s sent to prison for a year while he stands trial, but is eventually found not guilty due to insanity. He’s sentenced to a mental institution, and four years later, is released, “cured.” But his first night back home, a group of whackos from the “Christians Against Moral Decay” organization first kidnap and then lynch him. Thinking they’ve successfully hanged him (oh, the irony of this scene, incidentally — methinks Dee Snider has taken a lot of crap from Christian organizations in his time. . .), they head off into the night. But alas, Carleton’s not dead, and what’s worse, the Christians drove over his medication, and it only takes him about 90 minutes without his pills to go totally whacko again (yeah, that part made no sense to me either).

There’s really a LOT of silly stuff in this movie, including the fact that four years after Carleton gets out, the chat room he used to hang out in still looks EXACTLY the same (um, like, no.). But overall, it’s fairly successfully creepy, and I was pretty impressed by Dee Snider, all silliness considered. He said he was inspired to write this movie after hearing news reports about young women suckered in on chat rooms by pedophiles and sadists and stuff, and I guess that makes this film sort of his own personal public service announcement. Way more fun than your more traditional “don’t do drugs” PSA from old rock stars. Even better, though, was getting to see Linda Cardellini (from Freaks & Geeks and ER), which I didn’t expect — I didn’t realize she was in this.  She’s so awesome.

Anyway, this movie is pretty watchable.  It’s definitely not going to become a “cult favorite” of MINE, but I can see why fans of Snider might really like it.  I caught this one on IFC, by the way, so if you get that channel, and you’re intrigued, you might watch for it to roll around again.

[Netflix me | Buy/Rent me from Amazon] (this movie is available for Unbox rental at Amazon — $2.99!)

Genre: Horror
Cast: Linda Cardellini, Dee Snider, Robert Englund, Elizabeth Pena, Kevin Gage


One Response to “MOVIE: Strangeland (1998)”

  1. Alisa Says:

    I THINK I’ve seen this, but I don’t remember. I’ll have to ask my husband.
    I don’t know what that says about the movie though, because my husband and my brother in laws ex-girlfriend both swore that I went to the movies with all of them and saw Scream, but I don’t remember seeing that movie at all either. sooooooo…………

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