Thursday, August 31, 2006

Strangeland (1998)

Know when there's a stray piece of yarn that you just HAVE to pull?

Genre: Horror Thriller

Starring: Dee Snider (Deepwater), Kevin Gage (G.I. Jane, Paparazzi)

Directed By: John Pieplow

Overview: A modern primitive stalks his prey online. When the detective's own daughter goes missing, the investigation quickly leads him to the primitive's home. Could it be that easy?

Acting: It was interesting settling in to what was without a doubt going to be one horribly-acted film. I mean Dee Snider, frontman from Twisted Sister, as the antagonist? Yeah the 80s cock-rock band. Imagine my surprise when I found him completely convincing in that 'just a touch, but not too much' cheesy way. Then Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger) makes an appearance, Linda Cardinelli before "Freaks And Geeks", and several other faces to recognize besides. Half-way through I realized that this was an actual professional endeavour. The director should have tightened the reins here and there, but I was very impressed for a Horror film.
Rating: 6

Cinematography: Our baddie has one hell of an interesting look. The scene locales, that river, that house, it honestly didn't look low budget either. This isn't a gore film, but there are some creepy torture moments like eyes sown shut or dangling from hooks Texas Chainsaw style. There were even some moments of artistic camerawork from time to time that caught my eye. Maybe it was a lot of rooting for the low-budget Horror underdog, but the camera crew really knew what they were doing.
Rating: 7

Script: This is where we suffer. When it comes to explaining plot elements, it's to the point but too obvious, for example: conveniently a piercing aficionado happens to be there to explain everything. The dialogue between plot-moving elements is also atrocious. Hiring any writer to tweak the lines would have hurt the feelings of our Twisted Sister I suppose, but hell, even Lucas needed help with Star Wars. Glaring fromage comes from lines spoken by our two-dimensional hero cop and his chip-on-his-shoulder cliché partner, and I found the scenes where they were explaining chatrooms just a little too 'instructional video'. I think Dee focussed too much on minutiae when he had a solid thing going, and shot himself in the foot. Real potential that wasn't realized.
Rating: 5

Plot: Usually, when a script gets a poor rating, the plot suffers equally, but making exception of a few moments of suspension of disbelief, the underlying storyline is awesome. The antagonist isn't just some random nut, he has method to his madness and his exploration of body modification simply goes to the extreme, into the realm of the psychotic. It's not some slasher going around killing people for no reason. Not only do we have a man who isn't a murderer by nature, but the plot goes in a very interesting direction, adding two more acts of 'Twisted' storyline (HA!). This was brilliantly thought out; sadly it needed lots more polishing.
Rating: 8

Mood: This story about a modern primitive taking his expertise to the unwilling is immersive. All his desires and motivations are solid and true. Clearly this film was built around the character, which is great, but if more effort had been put into the cop chasing him, the daughter that was kidnapped, or included serious dialogue between our madman and his victims, adding real dimension to those around him, it could have been much creepier, since the characters would be less archetypal, more real. Plot holes, questionable police procedure and a town of 35,000 with a huge Extreme Industrial-Goth-SM bar overflowing with hundreds of patrons, I just don't see it, sorry Sister. At least have the pig say they're visiting another city to do research.
Rating: 7

Gotta give it to him for being creepy-cool

Overall Rating: 66% (Strange... It Was Actually Decent)

Aftertaste: I figured this John Pieplow fellow had directed only rock videos before this and after a mediocre search I discovered his website. He's a musician, go figure. I guess he stayed out of the direction biz. I'm sure he's doing alright. As for Twisted Sister, wow, he's still got a career. Some would just fade away after the passing fad of 80s cock-rock, but I guess he's just the type of guy to say, "I
ain't gonna take it lyin' down..."

Hee hee!