Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Strangeness (1985)

You gotta love Code Red. For those not in the know, they are a DVD distribution company that specializes in the obscure, the odd, and the sometimes neglected entries in Horror and Exploitation. While they've released some movies that are anything but good, they've also re-introduced Cult Classics like "Stunt Rock" and "Messiah of Evil" to the public. One of their DVD releases from 2009 was Melanie Anne Philips' 80's monster in a cave flick "The Strangeness." I remember reading about it in Stephen Thrower's essential tome "Nightmare USA", as it was a student flick of sorts made by friends for about $20,000. So was it worth the wait for DVD release?

The movie deals with a group of explorers who end up being trapped in a cave. Thing is, there's a legend of a creature that lurks the cave and kills those who dare enter it's territory. Of course, nobody believes this (except grizzled old Miner Morgan, played by Keith Hurt) and they decide to explore. You've seen these movies, so you know what happens next.

For a low budget 80's flick made by a group of friends, "The Strangeness" is surprisingly watchable. The cave set's are claustrophobic enough and shockingly realistic, while the John Carpenter like score is a lot of fun and the movie does offer a few fun moments. It also helps some that the creature (more on it next paragraph) is done via Stop Motion, and while the animation is a bit jerky, it's got a lot charm and low budget ingenuity, not to mention enthusiasm. You can tell the work that went on it was a labor of love. Oh, and the fact we mostly just see glimpses of it works pretty well

Oh, and the creature itself-um, wow. How can I describe how it looks? Well, it's tentacled, is shaped a bit like a penis, and it's mouth...well, um...it's mouth drools slime and looks like a gaping vagina. I know, I can't believe it either. It looks like a mix of something Lovecraft would have made if he was a fan of Freud, or something out of one of those pornographic Japanese cartoons. It really needs to be seen to be believed.

However, this is a student film so to speak, so of course, the acting is terrible (save for creature animator and Producer Mark Sawicki as a nosey, know it all writer working on a book) and at times is grating. It also doesn't help matters at all that the movie is so talky. Come on, we don't care about any of these people, so stop making us spend time with them.

Cut out some of the boring dialogue, and "The Strangeness" could have been a winner. As it stands, it's a minor movie that has it's charms and was clearly a labor of love, but nothing more. That out of the way, fans of lesser known cave creature flicks like "What Waits Below" and "The Boogens" will probably have a lot of fun. Just don't expect anything special.

Rating: 6/10

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