I don't know why, but Netflix really, REALLY doesn't want me to see Splatter University or Blood Song. So, while they make me wait another week, this week I'm watching Strangeland, a strange film starring(and written by) Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider. Did it make me scream, "We're not gonna take it!"? Find out in SPOILER-Land!
The story begins in that magical, mysterious time the historians call "The Late Nineties". So right off the bat, you can assume that the film's version of technology is already outdated and ill-informed. This wouldn't be so bad, except that the film's killer uses the Internet to lure his victims to his lair. And no offense to Hollywood, but their view of things like the Internet is usually pretty damn stupid. Lawnmower Man, anyone?
Okay, enough editorializing. As the film begins, we see lots of chains, hooks and handcuffs during the opening credits. After they end, we hear something that actually made me nostalgic: a noisy modem hissing and beeping at a sluggish speed(probably 14.4 bps, given that this came out in 1998. Yeesh!). 2 girls log into a forum simply called Teen Chat, which means that everyone there besides them is probably a middle-aged man in stained underwear, with a massively receding hairline.
The girl typing, Genevieve, calls her friend Tiana over to her desktop. Together, they watch as a lobbyful of idiots all try to cyber with each other. Tiana sees that Gen is chatting up someone named Captain Howdy, and asks a number of questions about the chat that lead me to believe that she could very well have been raised Amish. Or maybe feral. Oh, and Gen's screenname is "MissXXX151"...REALLY? A high school girl wants anonymous guys to think that she's into triple-x rated porn? Okay, quick poll: who thinks I should shut this off and just wait a few days for a (hopefully) less-stupid movie?
Dammit, why was I the only vote in favor of that? Fine. But you guys have to chip in for my eventual mental healthcare costs. Geez, Tiana just asked what an "IM" was. Shoot me. The 2 girls arrange a private chat with Captain Howdy, then make plans to go meet him. Good. Masybe this'll turn out to be a 5-minute movie.
The next scene finds us in the presence of Mike, a hard-working detective on the trail of a serial killer. Gee, I wonder if it's Captain Howdy? His wife, Toni, points out that their daughter Genevieve didn't come home after going out the previous night with Tiana. Toni leaves to answer the phone, while Mike sits at his daughter's desk and accidentally boots up her computer, which is the size of a T-Rex, and even more of a dinosaur than the T-Rex ever was. Man, that rig is bigger than my last apartment!
Toni returns to report that the phone call was from Tiana's worried parents. She never came home either, which means that Mike now has some actual police work to do. Yay for him.
At Captain Howdy's house, night has fallen. He's working out in his own private gym as the camera sloooooowly pans to the front door. We see him chasing one of the girls, Genevieve, as she tries to leave, but then he knocks her down. When she regains consciousness, Gen discovers that Howdy has stitched her lips together, and filed his teeth down to fangs. Fun guy.
The very next day, Detective Mike reveals how limited his sleuthing skills are, as he repeatedly fails to solve the conundrum of how to feed a dollar bill into a vending machine. Boy, if Captain Howdy morphs into a vending machine, Genevieve is pretty much dead meat. A co-worker helps Mike solve The Case of the Dullard's Dollar and gets him his coffeea. Case solved! Now maybe Mike can find his daughter and her friend...
Mike bitches out the helpful cop, then goes home. There, he mopes around like a puppy, until relatives stop by to lend moral support. His niece Angela, played by Amy Smart, shows him how his daughter's computer works. Then she makes things worse by telling him that she sometimes uses it to meet strange men under aliases. Nice.
Captain Howdy rambles on about "rites of passage", then pierces his arm with a steel rod. This somehow segues to a scene where the cops find a car in a pond. Examining the car reveals Tiana's corpse in the trunk, also with her lips sewn shut. The helpful cop from earlier also discovers some evidence: a nosering that a paramedic identifies as being much larger than a normal one would be. He tells the detectives that the spike is part of the "body art" community, which includes tattoos, piercings and other forms of self-mutilation. He then tells them to check out a club called Xibalba, which is a hangout for the body art patrons.
At the club, Detectives Mike and Christian wander through a crowd of Marilyn Manson wanna-bes, while Captain Howdy is in a backroom, dying. He's hanging from hooks in his chest, suspended from the ceiling. A group of Goths revive him, and he tells them that he wanted to die, briefly, because he believed it would somehow transform him. Well, THAT makes sense.
So, Mike returns home and looks through his daughter's computer desk some more. At work, his superior tells him that the post mortem examination of Tiana revealed that Captain Howdy had performed numerous piercings and mutilations all over her body, while she had still been alive. Her cause of death was a heart attack, brought on by the torture.
Captain Howdy goes online, at the same time that Mike does. Mike can't figure out how the Internet works(again, a sign of how old this movie's concepts are, lol), so he calls his niece. She gets him into a chatroom, and tells him to type stuff like "Tinsel, buttmunch", which makes NO sense to me, and I've been online since 1995 or so.
While navigating omnline chat, the detectives get a call from a tech geek. He informs them that the online name and profile for Captain Howdy are both fake. The niece does an online search for Catain Howdy's screen name, and finds him in seconds. The detectives immediately start to plan how to lure him out into the open.
Captain Howdy ain't exactly a slouch, though. He's looking at each profile himself, to find his next victim. Using his profile, the detectives start asking the lobby about things he listed among his interests. He takes the bait, and the niece tells them what to type. Eventually, he invites them to his lair.
The cops quickly assemble a SWAT team to assault the address he lists, while Captain Howdy tortures a boy with a penile mutilation. OUCH! the cops march into the house, only to find that the owners are an elderly couple. Captain Howdy won again.
After the failed raid, Mike sits in his car pouting. As the rest of the officers clear out, Mike falls asleep in the car, waking the next morning because of a barking dog. He opens a laptop to see if he can find Captain Howdy again, and Howdy starts taunting him about the raid. Then Howdy makes his first mistake, by sending an audio file. Mike realizes that the audio file contains the sound of the barking dog that woke him up, and starts to scan the houses.
After replying to the message, Captain Howdy sends another audio file. This time, Mike is able to pinpoint the killer's location. Drawing his weapon, Mike finds trash bags filled with needles and other implements of torture. He enters Captain Howdy's home via the basement, and starts to look around.
On the main floor of the house, the sound of heavy metal music gets louder. Mike finds a door unlocked, and sees numerous teenagers, in various states of torture. One girl is bound in wire, another is hogtied on the floor, yet another is trapped in a stockade, etc. At the end of the room, his daughter Genevieve is trapped in a cage.
Excited to find her, Mike starts to work on freeing his daughter. When Gen sees Captain Howdy sneak in, she tries to warn her father, but with her lips still stitched shut, the most she can do is whimper. Captain Howdy strikes Mike on the back of the head, and he crumples to the floor.
Captain Howdy turns toward Gen, and Mike opens his eyes. As he tries to crawl in the direction of his gun, Captain Howdy hears him and turns. Howdy tries to drag Mike away, but he manages to get the gun, and shoots the psychopath in the leg. As Mike frees Gen from her cage, the killer tells them that he fears nothing. He rants and raves about death, until Mike stuffs a candle into his mouth to shut him up.
After freeing Gen, Mike manages to rescue 5 other teens. We learn through a montage that Captain Howdy went with an insanity plea, and that his real name is Carlton Hendricks. He went thnrough counseling and a lot of pills, and is a changed man. Oh, and he removed most of the piercings and covered his extensively tattooed face and body with makeup.
Not everyone buys his metamorphosis, of course. Mike and his cop buddies think it's all an act. And a mob of angry parents, led by Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund(as Jack), want to destroy him. And then there's Genevieve, who is plagued by nightmares in which Captain Howdy stalks her.
When he comes home, Howdy is greeted by the angry parents, and a reporter. He tells theem that he's changed, but no one believes him. Later that night, Jack and his buddies decide to attack Captain Howdy directly. His daughter, who stayed out late, is mistakenly thought to be Howdy's latest victim, but she's been screwing around with her boyfriend all night. Oops.
The parents drag Howdy out of his house, while Mike sits in his car and watches. Then they drive him to a secluded location, tie a noose to a tree,and hang him. As he chokes, the limb starts to snap, then a thunderstorm starts up, making the lynch mob beat a hasty retreat, and running over the bottle of pills. As the rain reveals Howdy's tatto art once more, he wakes up and snaps back into his former persona.
The next night, Jack is watching porn and waiting for his wife to join him. Captain Howdy murders her in the bathroom, then walks her corpse out and lets Jack see that he slit her throat. Ow!
At the precinct, Mike gets an IM from Howdy, who then calls as well. He taunts the cops and dares them to find him, then hangs up before they can trace the call. He then pierces Jack's chest with large hooks, and sews his eyes and lips shut. The wife gets speared throughout her body, while Howdy describes the process to her. The agony makes her tear the stitches open on her lips, and she screams.
Mike gets a call from his wife, who asks him why he took Gen out of school. When he tells her he didn't, Mike rushes home and finds her staring at Captain Howdy's face on their PC monitor. Howdy makes them watch as he inserts one of his hooks into Gen's belly, and Mike vows to kill him. Then Howdy disconnects from the chat before it can be traced.
2 newbie-looking cops stumble upon Captain Howdy's lair. Inside, they find several torture victims: A crucified man; another bare-chested man hanging upside-down by shackled ankles; a naked girl who I can't exactly identify; Jack, hanging suspended by body-piercing hooks all over his torso; his wife, with wires and rods pulling at her skin so that she's standing upright in one spot while writhing; and Gen, who has numerous needles piercing her, as well as clamps and dangerous-looking wires wrapped around her.
EMT's arrive, as well as other cops. Mike and Christian find a matchbook from Club Xibalba, and Mike decides to take down Captain Howdy permanently. At the empty club, Captain Howdy teases Mike from the shadows, then emerges after Mike drops his gun. As the 2 men brawl, Christian arrives and tries to find an entrance.
Captain Howdy strangles Mike, then threatens him with a hook on a chain. Mike gets away by pulling out Howdy's nosering, then tries to use the candles in the room as a weapon. He eventually distracts Howdy enough to shove a chained hook into his shoulder, which makes Howdy start to swing back and forth. As Howdy watches, Mike douses him with candle wax, then lights him on fire. Captain Howdy goes up in flames, and Christian comes in to tell Mike that it's over. No shit, Sherlock! As the cops rush away, the room starts to become an inferno, and we get a nasty eyeful of the hunk of flesh that got torn from Howdy's shoulder when his body fell off of the hook.
Outside, Mike tells his buddy that he needs to see his family. As he walks away, a final shot of the burning house is shown, superimposed over an image of Captain Howdy. THE END, I guess...
Boy, this movie had so much potential, but it was kind of a dud. Very few characters actually died, which really doesn't make it much of a slasher film, and the pace was very uneven. Heck, even having a fun horror icon like Robert Englund in the film didn't really have much of a point. I hear there's a sequel coming out this year, so maybe it'll improve on the first one a bit. More storyline and carnage, less watching the killer make nonsensical speeches. 2 killer trees out of 5, mostly for the look of the film and the soundtrack.
And what did I get out of watching Strangeland?
-Well, there was some nudity...
-I learned that Dee Snider is even MORE psychotic when he's not in drag!
-There are still people(teens, no less!) who need to be told what "IM" means!
Next week? Well, I'd like to hope that it'll be Splatter University, but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for it. The next slasher flick on the list after that is something called Dead Tone, so they might send that instead, like what they pulled last week. We'll see....