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"STRANGELAND"
(1998) (Kevin Gage, Dee Snider) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Mild Heavy Extreme *Heavy Moderate
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Moderate Minor Moderate *None Heavy
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Heavy Minor Mild Mild Extreme


QUICK TAKE:
Horror: A detective tries to find his missing daughter who's been kidnaped by an Internet-based stalker who's subjecting his victims to sadistic tribal rituals and rites of passage.
PLOT:
Fifteen-year-old Genevieve Gage (LINDA CARDELLINI) and her best friend Tiana Moore (AMAL RHOE) are typical high school students who spend their idle time surfing the Internet and sending messages to strangers via chat rooms. Upon "meeting" another apparent student who goes by the screen name of "Captain Howdy," Genevieve and Tiana decide to attend a party at this person's house.

When neither has returned home by the next morning, Genevieve's mother, Toni (ELIZABETH PEÑA), sounds the alarm setting husband, Mike (KEVIN GAGE), a local detective, into action. With the assistance of a younger detective, Steve Christian (BRETT HARRELSON), Gage tries to unravel this mystery, and while they quickly find Tiana's body, there's no sign of his daughter.

Although they discover that the killer is into "body art" that includes great quantities of tattooing, piercing, branding, and scarification, it's not until his niece, Angela (AMY SMART), informs him of her cousin's penchant for meeting strangers through the Internet that he gets his first lead.

Meeting the mysterious Captain Howdy online, Gage gets the stranger to invite him to a party, but his planned bust there goes awry. Later, however, he figures out the madman's location and discovers the sadist's torture chamber of horrors. Gage not only finds his daughter bound and with her lips sewn shut, but also many others in similar predicaments. Arresting the madman, Gage thinks he's closed the case.

Nonetheless, four years after being found not guilty on grounds of mental illness, Captain Howdy, a.k.a. Carleton Hendricks (DEE SNIDER) is released from the mental asylum. Supposedly reformed and okay as long as he's medicated, Carleton receives a less than enthusiastic response back in his old neighborhood.

While Gage is also less than thrilled about this, his fears grow as the actions of a group of local activists, led by redneck Jackson Roth (ROBERT ENGLUND), set into motion a series of events that begin the sadist's madness once again.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
The horror film craze seems to be waning again, so unless they're huge fans of such films, or of actor/rock star Dee Snider (of the heavy metal group "Twisted Sister"), it's not very likely.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
The reason was not available, but we'd guess it was for profanity, nudity, some sexually related material, and violence including depictions of sadistic torture practices.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • DEE SNIDER plays a sadistic torturer who's into "body art" (tatoos and body piercing).
  • KEVIN GAGE plays the detective father who's always in a bad mood and despite eventually solving the case, isn't a very good detective.
  • LINDA CARDELLINI plays a high school student whose obsession with meeting people she's met in Internet chat rooms gets her into trouble.
  • ROBERT ENGLUND plays a local redneck who takes the law into his own hands.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 0 out of 10
    The old adage goes that you shouldn't beat a dead horse or kick a man when he's down, so we won't go on and on about how bad "Dee Snider's Strangeland" really is, since the filmmakers probably already know that. Opening without any advance screening for critics (always the first sign of major trouble), the film is on par with (and occasionally below) those bad "B" movies that premiere late at night somewhere on cable TV.

    Featuring a scare-impaired, lackluster plot that rips off many other superior horror films, nothing but leaden pacing, and enough wooden acting to nearly alleviate deforestation, the most shocking thing about this film is that it ever made it to the big screen.

    Dee Snider, the lead singer of the heavy metal band Twisted Sister, apparently found that he had an urge to become a filmmaker (after having bit parts in Howard Stern's "Private Parts and "Pee Wee's Big Adventure"), and so beyond starring in and producing this film, he also wrote the screenplay. As is often the case with musicians turned filmmakers, he shouldn't give up his "day job" just yet. Or ever.

    Working with former TV commercial director John Pieplow (who made his feature writing/directing debut with the straight to cable film, "Jurassic Women") the two bring absolutely nothing new to this genre, and simply retread material from other films such as "Kiss the Girls" and the fabulous "Silence of the Lambs."

    Playing out like a pale combination of those films and a vapid, poorly constructed episode of TV's "The X-Files," the film is supposed to generate taut suspense and deep emotional drama, but horribly fails in its attempts to do either. We're never allowed at any moment to connect with the characters, and the fact that they're all in such grumpy moods throughout the film prevents us from every sympathizing with any of them, or worrying about their plight.

    Additionally, instead of having the detective solve the mystery, the filmmakers simply drop most everything into his lap, not only making the film feel too convenient, but also creating a lame, uninteresting protagonist.

    The film also lacks the traditional jump scenes found in such films (where characters suddenly turn around and bump into someone), any sense of humor (although fans of Snider's may get a chuckle out of seeing their star dressed and acting like a straight-laced geek for part of the film), or the new wave of witty and referential dialogue that's found in today's teen horror flicks. Consequently, the picture comes off as listless, boring and trite, and should make a quick beeline to the video stores.

    To his credit, Snider has the right look for the madman character (and that's even before the makeup), but his tiger stripe tatoo appearance is more likely to inspire chuckles than anything resembling fear. Although his character's sadistic methods of torture are indeed quite sick and disturbing, neither they nor he come off as remotely scary if you've seen other similarly based films.

    While I'm sure Snider and everyone else associated with the film were hoping they'd be making Captain Woody into a horror franchise character, it's extremely doubtful that will ever happen (or, for the sake of filmdom and humanity in general, let's hope that's true).

    Meanwhile, Kevin Gage ("G.I. Jane," "Con Air") and Brett Harrelson ("The People vs. Larry Flynt") are horrendously wooden in their thespian efforts, with Gage's forced attempts at looking serious or pained regarding his daughter's kidnaping almost being bad enough to induce camp-inspired laughter.

    Elizabeth Peña ("Lone Star") is wasted in her limited role, while Robert Englund (the "Nightmare on Elm Street" films), who's appearance in any low budget horror film is seemingly becoming a defacto standard, is not surprisingly rather flat as a one-dimensional redneck who shows up late in the plot.

    In one of his group's biggest hits from years ago, Dee Snider sang, "Oh, we're not gonna take it. No, we ain't gonna take it. Oh, we're not gonna take it anymore." Moviegoers, should they wish to see the end of pathetic films such as this cluttering the world's movie theaters, may just want to start singing that song themselves. We give "Strangeland" a 0 out of 10.

    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Although it's questionable how many kids will want to see this film, most parents will probably be appalled at its content. That's simply due to the sadistic nature of the killer, a character who not only tatoos and pierces his own body to the extreme, but also tortures his victims in the most sadistic ways. Not surprisingly, violence and bad attitudes are extreme, and many may find such scenes unsettling, distasteful or downright gross and appalling.

    Profanity is heavy with at least 8 "f" words and an assortment of others, and the "Sex/Nudity" category also gets a heavy rating with several encounters occurring along with many glimpses of nude victims. Simply due to the nature of the content, we strongly urge you to take a closer look at what's been listed should someone in your home wish to see this film.

    Of special note for those concerned with bright repetitive flashes of light, a few instances of that occur here.



    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Roth has several beers.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • During the opening credits we see some blood dripping onto some syringes/needles on a table, as well as some diluting some sort of liquid.
  • Gage looks through some photos that appear to show bloodstained rooms.
  • Captain Howdy drags a woman back into his house and we see that her hair is matted with blood.
  • All of the madman's victims have had their lips sewn shut (some of which are bloody), and others have their eyes sewn shut.
  • We see Capt. Howdy stick a large needle through the skin of his arm and then back out an inch or so away from the insertion point (no blood).
  • We see a man heating a knife of sorts and then pressing it against his flesh.
  • We see what is presumably urine flowing down a tube that's attached to a woman in a cage.
  • Some blood squirts out when a man is shot.
  • Carleton's nose is bloody after a group of men beat him.
  • A woman that Howdy has injured or killed appears to be bloody.
  • We twice see a hook being placed into a victim's skin (no blood), and then see Howdy inserting long spikes into a woman's breasts.
  • More discovered victims are bloody.
  • Gage's mouth is a little bloody after fighting Howdy whose face is also bloody after Gage has yanked out his nose ring.
  • We see a man fully engulfed in flames.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Obviously, Captain Howdy has extreme cases of both for not only having his own death wish, but also for sadistically torturing others.
  • Gage has both toward Christian despite that man helping him.
  • Gage illegally breaks into and enters a house where he believes the madman to be present.
  • Roth has both toward the woman with him, as well as for taking the law into his own hands and hanging Carleton.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • The very young or those with low tolerance levels for suspense may find the following scary or suspenseful, but anyone who's seen an episode of "The X-Files" or similar shows/movies may find most of the material uneventful and bland (not regarding the torture material).
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" may also be tense to some viewers.
  • Some scenes accompanied by scary or suspenseful music may come off that way to those who are easily scared, but the scenes themselves aren't otherwise scary.
  • All of the madman's victims have had their lips sewn shut (some of which are bloody), and others have their eyes sewn shut. That, and the many other scenes of sadistic torture may be scary or unsettling to some viewers.
  • The cops pull a car from a lake, peer inside and then open a trunk where they find a body.
  • Captain Howdy comments on some tribal women not having sex with men unless they have pierced genitals (as he proceeds to do just that to one of his male victims — although we don't see the actual piercing).
  • Gage breaks into the basement of a home, and then with gun and flashlight drawn, slowly makes his way through the house until he discovers the madman's torture chamber (where the madman may be lurking about).
  • Genevieve has a nightmare where Howdy grabs her, throws her to a bed and rips her shirt open.
  • A mob, led by Roth, takes the law into their own hands, abducts Carleton (after repeatedly punching, kicking, and stomping down on him), and hangs him at night (he's presumably dead, but the tree branch later breaks and he's alive).
  • We twice see a hook being placed into a victim's skin (no blood), and then see Howdy inserting long spikes into a woman's breasts.
  • Two miscellaneous cops investigate a building with their guns and flashlights drawn.
  • Gage and Howdy get into a fight at the end that concludes with Howdy completely engulfed in flames.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Handguns/Assault Weapons: Carried by the cops on various occasions, and a handgun is used to shoot and injure Capt. Howdy.
  • Needles/Spikes/Hooks/Other such instruments: Used by Capt. Howdy to torture his victims.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Humping" (sexual), "Sack of sh*t," "Dumb bitch," "Screwing up," "Suck" and "Buttmunch" (both written), and "Bastard."
  • Some kids may be inspired to get tatoos or have different parts of their body pierced, etc... upon seeing the results of such behavior here.
  • Capt. Howdy has a death wish of sorts.
  • It's possible some kids may try to imitate some of the torture scene material on younger kids or possibly animals.
  • Roth spits on the street.
  • A mob, led by Roth, takes the law into their own hands, abducts Carleton, and hangs him at night.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • A door suddenly opens as a woman tries to escape from the madman.
  • A window suddenly breaks as men break into Carleton's house.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • The film has moderate amounts of suspenseful music.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • Despite our not hearing anything, the film's soundtrack is filled with many heavy metal songs, some of which that had indecipherable lyrics.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 8 "f" words, 8 "s" words, 5 S.O.B.'s, 4 hells (2 written), 1 damn, 1 ass (used with "hole"), and 3 uses of "Oh God," 2 of "God" and "For Christ's sakes," and 1 use each of "G-damn," "Jesus Christ," "My God" and "Swear to God" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • Genevieve comments on meeting, marrying, and having "cybersex" with a guy she met in a chat room.
  • Captain Howdy may be sitting nude in the dark, but due to the shadows it's impossible to tell.
  • Several characters in a club show some nudity (bare breasts, mostly bare butts).
  • We see some photographs of women's breasts showing pierced nipples.
  • Captain Howdy comments on some tribal women not having sex with men unless they have pierced genitals (as he proceeds to do just that to one of his male victims — although we don't see the actual piercing).
  • We briefly see a rather old couple having sex (the husband on top of the woman with movement but completely under the sheets) as Gage and the others mistakenly raid the wrong house.
  • We see several victims' bare breasts in the madman's torture chamber.
  • Roth answers his own question about where a woman's daughter is by saying that "...she's out humping some football player..."
  • We see the end of a sexual encounter where the young man on top of a young woman (with movement and sounds from both) climaxes and then rolls over, exposing the woman's bare breasts.
  • We see Roth in his tightfitting short underwear as he waits for a woman to come into the bedroom (he tells her that he's "going to lose my hard on"). As he waits, he also watches a videotape that shows an older man opening a younger girl's shirt (we see her cleavage), and then pulling her panties off.
  • We see the side of Roth's bare butt as he's strapped down to a table.
  • We see a woman's bare breasts as Howdy inserts long spikes into them.
  • While fighting with Gage, Howdy comments, "I bet Genevieve felt an awful lot like this when I was inside her."
  • SMOKING
  • Some people smoke in a club.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • The family worries about their kidnaped daughter, especially after learning that she's being sadistically tortured.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • "Meeting" strangers in online chat rooms and then agreeing to meet them in person (ie. The dangers of doing that since the people might not be who they say they are).
  • Body self-mutilation (body piercing, scarification, etc...) and tatoos.
  • The insanity defense for cases resembling this one.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Captain Howdy chases a young woman outside his house and hits her on the head, drawing blood and knocking her unconscious.
  • We see that the madman has sewn all of his victims' mouths shut, and he performs other sadistic and torturous behavior on them.
  • Gage and Christian find a dead girl in a trunk, and it's later mentioned that she was tortured (resulting in her death by heart attack).
  • A woman strikes someone in a club.
  • Captain Howdy comments on some tribal women not having sex with men unless they have pierced genitals (as he proceeds to do just that to one of his male victims — although we don't see the actual piercing).
  • The madman hits Gage and momentarily knocks him out. The two then fight over Gage's gun until Gage hits him with a pan and then shoots and injures him.
  • A mob, led by Roth, takes the law into their own hands, abducts Carleton (after repeatedly punching, kicking, and stomping down on him), and hangs him at night (he's presumably dead, but the tree branch later breaks and he's alive).
  • After injuring or killing a woman, Howdy then strikes Roth and knocks him unconscious.
  • We twice see a hook being placed into a victim's skin (no blood), and then see Howdy inserting long spikes into a woman's breasts.
  • Gage violently thrashes a keyboard in anger.
  • Two miscellaneous cops investigate a building with their guns and flashlights drawn. They find more torture victims including a man who's been crucified (with nails through his hands), as well as Roth who's suspended by hooks through his flesh across his entire body, and a woman with long spikes inserted throughout her body.
  • Gage and the madman get into a fight where Howdy repeatedly punches and kicks Gage and then starts to choke him. Gage then pulls Howdy's nose ring from his face, kicks him, raises him on a hook, and then lights him on fire (presumably killing him).



  • Reviewed October 2, 1998

    Other new reviews available this week include:

    [And So It Goes] [Hercules] [I Origins] [Lucy] [Magic in the Moonlight]

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