Dee Snider's Strangeland

1998, R, 100 min. Directed by John Pieplow. Starring Dee Snider, Kevin Gage, Elizabeth Peña, Brett Harrelson, Robert Englund, Linda Cardellini.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 9, 1998

Strange is an understatement. Who knew the world's first modern-primitive slasher/detective/thriller would come from the thoroughly creepy pen of Twisted Sister frontman (and arch-foe of Tipper Gore and the PMRC) Dee Snider? I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked – not that Snider could write and produce and star in this repugnant freakfest, but that it's so very, very bad. As Snider himself would say, you can't stop rock & roll, but I suspect his film career may be dead on arrival, and not a moment too soon. Mixing genre elements from The Silence of the Lambs, Seven, and various cyber thrillers, StrangeLand is the tale of Captain Howdy (Snider), a deranged online predator who uses teen chat rooms to lure unsuspecting (and inanely naive) high-schoolers to their doom (said doom being set in what looks like a well-manicured suburban tract home). Once he gets them in his clutches, the mohawked-and-over-pierced maniac sews their mouths shuts, subjects them to some woefully unhygienic scarification and home-piercing, and then suspends them from the ceiling. It's nothing you couldn't catch in front of any industrial/gothic nightclub on any given night, but Captain Howdy pushes the boundaries of bad taste by forcing his captives to listen to his bizarre, existential rantings, as he quotes H.G. Wells, Goethe, and others in a stilted, sonorous tone. The horror, the horror. When Howdy absconds with Detective Mike Gage's (Gage) daughter (Cardellini), however, he goes one step too far and the law descends on him like a ton of autoclaves. And then the film really gets strange. It may be your one chance to see the strapping Snider decked in both full piercing accouterments and a hideously cheesoid Mrs. Bates hairpiece (if you're into that sort of thing). Director Pieplow conducts this vanity project with all the suspense of a Pop Tart, replete with shoddy editing and an annoying metallic score by Snider and industro-goon band BiLE. Hackers, and cybernauts in general, will doubtless thrill to the longwinded expositional scenes involving the ins and outs of teen chat rooms, and while the Net predator angle is a good one, Snider's script is a mess, oozing numbingly bad dialogue from every clogged pore. Kudos to Brett Harrelson, who, as Gage's bad-cop partner Steve Christian gets some of the most ridiculous lines in recent movie memory and manages to utter them with a straight face. Genre überstar Englund is on board as a disgruntled redneck, but even he seems to realize the proceedings are well on the road to dumbville. Painful to endure even by modern primitive standards, it's a freaky, funless wreck, intolerable in the extreme.

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