Before Rob Zombie started making movies, Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider penned this ahead-of-its-time tale of the dangers of Internet chat rooms. The scope of this brutal fable (which is oh so much tamer than the “torture porn” films that would be all the rage in the next decade) is rather epic, covering several years in the legacy of Captain Howdy (Snider himself), a body modification fetishist who lures young victims to his dungeon (via the aforementioned Internet chat rooms) and proceeds to do very bad things to them. The father of his latest victim (Linda Cardellini, pre-Scooby-Doo) happens to be a cop (Kevin Gage), who manages to bust the freak and put him behind bars. However, years later, the bad Captain is released from a mental institution‚Ä¶ and proves to be rather dangerous when he doesn’t take his pills. Strangeland is no classic, but it’s smarter than it has any right to be; director John Pieplow also knows how to work the industrial-gothic atmosphere, and Snider delivers a not-bad performance as the killer (though you kind of keep expecting — and hoping — that he’ll suddenly burst into singing “Burn in Hell,” the Twisted Sister song performed briefly in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure). The film’s most amusing flourish is definitely the casting of Robert Englund as a concerned parent of a teenager, a clever bit of meta-irony if there ever was one.
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