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.