“The Strangeness” is a prime example of the independent-horror scene in the early ’80s. Crafted by a group of young people that admired the genre, they spent weekends creating a movie on a shoestring budget. But maybe the best part about the whole thing is that the eerie atmosphere engulfs you into the classic-monster storyline.
The movie follows a group of people sent to survey an abandoned mine which caves in and the miners realize they are not alone. A monster with tentacles has inhabited the mine and eats anything that disturbs his home. This is actually the one of the last films to use stop-motion animation to create it’s monster, and that allows the movie to feel like an old-fashioned horror from the 1950s (but with more gore).
There is nothing wrong with modeling the film on past influences, especially when the movie is done right. The star of the picture is the monster, and the acting is slightly amateurish, but completely believable at the same time. The problem with some of the acting is that, for the 92-minute duration of the film, a few slow stretches make the movie hard to watch for some. The monster, which looks like two sex organs attached to each other, is not in the movie as much as one would have liked it to be, and that is due to obvious budget constraints. You can’t help but wait to see the monster, and you are slowly teased throughout and that keeps your interest.
In the right frame of mind, it is very easy to get involved based on the setting and mood created by the filmmakers. Watching a group of miners explore the dark and creepy cave allows a sense of fear, except those with low attention spans. This is not “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and sometimes the excitement is not there, but patience is a virtue, and in the end it will pay off for devotees of the horror genre.
Pure monster flicks have been a part of the genre that got lost in the slasher-driven ’80s, and is definitely in need of a boost today. “The Strangeness” proves that borrowing from an older genre and enhancing it to fit the current decade is a smart choice, but today the market is flooded with useless remakes that are not innovative at all. However, this early-’80s direct-to-video retro-monster film is very innovative, and a welcome treat to DVD.
Code Red has released some of their best titles in the past month, and this DVD presentation is excellent. Originally shot in 16 mm with the director’s supervision, it has been enhanced for widescreens. Also, the details of some of the darker scenes have finally had some light shed on them, making it an improvement over the Trans World Entertainment VHS.
Six short films from Chris Huntley and Mark Sawicki (both acted in and helped create the picture) are on the disc, and that helps to show us the mind frame of the creators. Some of the short films work; others don’t. “Origins” is the best of the six short films, and evidence that Huntley should have directed the picture instead of Melanie Anne Phillips.
Phillips is on hand for an informative discussion in which she talks about the independent-film-making process, and it makes for a very interesting interview.
Huntley is also interviewed, and he seems very unhappy with the finished product because of the fact he feels the picture is boring. He also states that being a closeted homosexual lead to the creation of the monster, and that was not intentional.
The final interview is with Sawicki, who has had the most successful afterlife from this picture. He recently did special effects work for “Tropic Thunder” and “3:10 to Yuma,” and he is very passionate about his early little film (and rightfully so).
All three are on hand for a commentary, which feels like a lesson in making your own movie, and a great and inspiring listen. Then you have an extensive photo gallery, providing one stellar package and presentation.
But save some room for a bunch of Code Red trailers, including the recently released, “Trapped,” “Stunt Rock” and “Weekend Murders.” Then a series of trailers for forthcoming titles includes “Brute Corps,” “The Statue,” (with David Niven and John Cleese) “The Visitor” (featuring Glen Ford and John Huston) and the eagerly awaited “Night Warning.”
“The Strangeness” is an important horror movie for many reasons, and something uniquely different. The slow pace may turn some viewers off, but Code Red’s presentation more then makes up for that.