Hello to all those faithfully reading and hopefully enjoying this effort to make even the worst horror movie more watcha... aw, screw that - I'm not that good. If a movie makes you cringe because yet another batch of unlikable teens that are pushing 30 are inching toward their deaths, having a party no one does anywhere ever, a paranormal movie is boring you to tears with unending pans of empty rooms, or thanks to CGI technology when people finally bite it, their blood squirts everywhere except on the victim, the ground, the people next to them... you're in good company and this is the right place for you.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Movies You Watch Because Of Who's In Them

Strangeland (1998)

When I first heard of this movie I was going to pass on it - until I found out it starred Dee Snider 
whom your parents (or God help me grandparents) probably know better as the frontman for the 80's band Twisted Sister. After checking up on it, I found that he also wrote it. Now actors and musicians who go outside their comfort zones and do things like this can have - mixed results. Robert Englund has written movies. My fave band frontman Gerard Way wrote a series of comic books (and they were very inventive, I would have read them even if they weren't his). So you can get either good or... This movie was good - for the subject matter it presents. It was smart, if kind of predictable, and Dee Snider played a great character.

A word of caution: If you feel faint at the sign of a paper cut, this movie is probably not for you. Strangeland delves into the world of body modification, whether it be through piercings, scarification, tattoos, branding and other forms of personal mutilation. I don't know how many of the 'extras' in this movie actually have those for real (I've seen Dee Snider, he doesn't - at least not like in the movie) but they can be stomach turning if you've never seen such things before.

We see a man who is into pain - both the giving and getting - as a form of trying to find, I dunno, Nirvana? At an S&M bar (They have those in Colorado?) he tries the ritual of hooks piercing his chest and being suspended in an attempt to achieve... something. He's actually angry when they let him down before he dies. This practice started with the Mandan tribe of Missouri, but believe it or not is actually still in practice by many today. He's obviously no stranger to pain - everything that can possibly be pierced is, heavy tribal tattoos cover him from head to foot and scars are present everywhere. Again, not for the squeamish.

In Colorado several teenagers disappear after meeting with someone on a chat site. A detective named Mike's daughter is among the missing. This being 1998 and him a 'duh' adult, he doesn't even think to check his daughter's computer to see what's she's been up to. It takes his niece to show him the world of the internet and how to use it. Now when his daughter disappeared she was with her best friend. That friend was found dead in the trunk of her car submerged in a lake. She'd been tortured but that's not what killed her - she had a congenital heart defect and the trauma brought on a heart attack. Mike is paralyzed with fear, knowing his daughter could very well be the next found. With the niece's help they see his daughter had been speaking to a 'Capt. Howdy' (Dee Snider) who presented himself as a teenage boy wanting to party. Their first attempt to snag him fails, as he's pretty smart and sends them to the wrong house. However he's also vain, wanting to see them fail, so the house he sends them to is on his street - conveniently (this did have some obvious moments) there is a barking dog that the detective can hear both from his car and from recordings from Capt. Howdy. He busts in to what he thinks is the right house (search warrants be damned I guess) and finds his daughter bound, her lips sewn shut, naked in a cage. After being attacked by Capt. Howdy he shoots him in the leg, cuffing him and rescuing his daughter.

The justice system being what it is, what happens next was entirely plausible. After a year of being in jail while on trial, the Capt. (real name Carlton Hendricks) is found not guilty by reason of insanity and spends a mere three years in a psych ward. Not fair? Of course. That's why it's plausible - you could totally see that happening in real life unfortunately.

After Carlton's release he is supposedly a changed man - his bright red hair now a normal brown (What's wrong with red?), all his piercings gone, and makeup to cover at least the tattoos on his face. He dresses conservatively and spends his time reading. For some reason, this makes him much creepier looking than Capt. Howdy. And they're keeping him on heavy duty meds to stay that way. But the town is not willing to let go. Carlton comes home to find it's been totally destroyed, and daily crowds cry out for his blood on his front lawn. He can't go anywhere, just spends his days watching television and reading.

One good ole' boy (Hey, it's Robert Englund, cool!) Jackson Roth just can't stand this injustice (funny). One night when his daughter is late coming home he jumps to the conclusion (being drunk doesn't help) that she's been kidnapped and puts together a lynch mob. They smash into Carlton's house, grab him, beat the snot out of him and take off. Parked outside is Mike. He sees them but does nothing, Carlton also seeing Mike sitting there. They take him on a back road and hang him from a tree. It starts to rain, hard, and they all leave. The branch wasn't stable to begin with and the weight eventually makes it snap, throwing Carlton to the ground. He's not dead. That's plausible too - people have survived hangings. Taking a deep breath he almost smiles, saying 'What a rush!' - and Capt. Howdy is back. And wanting revenge. Lots and lots of revenge.

The story gets pretty obvious from here but still well played. He kills Jackson's wife in front of him, then tortures both him and his daughter. He also again captures the detective's daughter (she's just not that bright) and she gets a fresh round of pain. Now since he hasn't moved, they know just where to find him and the tortured victims. He's not there. Mike tracks him down to a church and they fight... I think they stretched this out a bit too long. Finally as Carlton seems to be about to kill Mike, he slips up and Mike manages to hook him in the back (Carlton brought the hook, hanging it intending to torture the detective) and starts slamming him into the walls. Ouch. Then, since all sense of propriety and justice seems to be thrown out the window, Mike douses Carlton with something flammable and sets him on fire. We presume he dies from this. And the movie's over.