Movie Review: STRANGELANDArtisan Entertainment
1998
R

“So much flesh…so little time.”

A cop’s daughter is abducted after being lured to a “party” after chatting with this guy online named Captain Howdy (*snort*…oh, wait…that’s from The Exorcist…never mind…*snort*). Capt. Howdy is the leader of an underground S&M cult that’s centered around tribal tattooing and extreme forms of body piercing. Capt. Howdy also just happens to be Dee Snider of Twisted Sister fame. Go figure. After tracking down Howdy’s cabal and rescuing the cop’s daughter and several other captives, the poor Captain is taken into custody, where he’s rehabilitated after two years (and several quarts of concealing): he is now a docile milquetoast who looks like that spinster librarian down the street. Now he’s released back into the real world to live a relatively peaceful coexistence with the townsfolk…for about five minutes. Of course, the parents of the girls he tormented get wind of his release, and decide to gather a posse (led by Robert Englund of that other famous franchise…that’s right, “V the Miniseries”) to let the former sociopath know exactly where he stands. After a sever beating at the hands of the angry mob, which was just watched by the cop of the girl (remember him? Good…), he snaps and reverts back to Captain Howdy, and now he’s got a severe mad-on and takes it out on the vengeful townsfolk. Wackiness (backed up by a nu-metal soundtrack) ensues…

First off, this “Captain Howdy” reference really is taken from The Exorcist…that’s the entity that young and stupid little Regan contacts on the Ouija board. That, and it’s also reference to an obscure Twisted Sister song (“Stay away from Caaaptain Hooooowdeeeeeeeeeeee!”). So, yeah, it makes since why Dee Snider would choose that as the name of his antagonist. Still, the name sounds like he should be part of a Garth Ennis cast of weirdos…

Anyhoo, the title Strangeland is rather apt, as it’s a bit of a surreal (if not a bit cheesy) trip through extreme body modification as a religion…kind of like taking Clive Barker’s Cenobites a bit too seriously. All the actors seem to have only one form of acting- over-the-top. Sometimes it works (like when Snider hams it up as the evil Howdy), sometimes it doesn’t (the cop and his wife seem to always be on the verge of a mental breakdown), but overall it’s so campy it’s fun (Englund’s character is actually creepier than Snider’s, and he’s one of the normals). Obviously, there’s the attempt at exploring the whole concept of “who’s the real monster here?” But that’s really buried under the extremely graphic nature of the film. Definitely not for the squeamish. And you might want to have some Pepto Bismol handy…