|Copyright 1985 Stellarwind
| Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 18 October 2009
- Geoff Calvert - Our hero, as beefy and bushy as they come.
- Tony Ruggles - Got some gnome in your family tree, do ya? Swallowed.
- Dan Flanders - The know-it-all writer who is so omniscient that he could beat Kenny at Jeopardy if the topic was "Gamera." If asked, Dan could probably answer the following questions about the monster: How much does it weigh? What is its mother's maiden name? When was the last time it got a bikini wax? And, Saints preserve us, he has a harmonica. Gobbled.
- Cindy Flanders - What does a blonde like her, with a body like that, see in a dweeb like Dan?
- Mr. Morgan - Supposedly a grizzled old miner, but he freaks out and acts like a pansy for most of the film. Ingested.
- Myron Hemmings - The mine manager whose greed sentenced seven people to death. Why is he the boss? Because he is a jerk. That is how capitalism works: the more you love money, the bigger a wanker you are (which says oodles about Donald Trump). Slurped.
- Angela Platt - She would rather lick rocks than talk to another human being, which means that she had two career choices: geologist or AOL customer service representative. She picked geologist. Devoured.
- Amy & Brian - Appetizers.
- The Monster - That thing looks like a...yowza! I had no idea that they grew that big!
|Volunteering to explore a gold mine that was closed because miners kept disappearing is something I would never do, not even if they gave me a flamethrower (and I love flamethrowers). Descending into the voracious depths of an abandoned mine is something that any sane person should avoid. The people in this movie throw caution to the wind and reenter the man-eating hole. Seven out of the nine get eaten. Coincidence?
No, it is not a coincidence. This is a monster movie, and "The Strangeness" follows the standard set of rules for the genre. Where it departs, in a big way, is the monster itself. The subterranean stop-motion horror lurking in the Golden Spike Mine is disconcerting to say the least. Describing it is a challenge. I remember reading an online description some time ago that called the creature "Lovecraftian."
The monster is a nine-foot-tall, slime-dripping, tentacled horror. I just wouldn't call it Lovecraftian. Whoever wrote that has never had a girlfriend (sounds about par for most Internet movie critics).
Anyway, off into regular monster movie territory as we meet two unlucky individuals, Amy and Brian, who enter the abandoned mine. They immediately get eaten, thus establishing that there is indeed something terrible lurking in the old hole. We are then introduced to the primary characters, who have been hired to determine if the Golden Spike Mine is worth reopening. The assembled party spends the night around a campfire listening to Dan recite various spooky stories about the Golden Spike Mine. He tells them about Indian legends, disappearing miners, and mysterious circumstances. There is a history of strangeness surrounding the old mine, and the natural caverns it connects to. These people should know better than to go poking around in a place like that!
Come morning, the group rolls up their sleeping bags and hikes to the small cave mouth that is the only accessible entrance to the mine. They crawl inside, finding that the inside of the mine is nice and roomy, with lots of heavy wood infrastructure. One by one, the explorers climb down a rope to the lower level (nobody remains topside). As the last person nears the bottom, the rope is suddenly cut! Mr. Hemmings dismisses the foreboding occurrence as an accident: the rope must have rubbed against something. Reluctantly, the crew sets off into the eerie blackness to look for signs of an undiscovered gold vein as a mysterious wind howls through the dark tunnels.
So, thus far, we have:
- An abandoned gold mine.
- Two people whose only function in the film is to get eaten.
- A mismatched group of people who do not necessarily get along.
- One hot blonde, and one homely brunette.
- An annoying know-it-all.
- Multiple legends and stories about the old mine, and none of them good.
- No way to contact the outside world in case of an emergency.
- A rope mysteriously cut.
- Ominous winds that are entirely out of place inside of a mine.
What comes next? Come on, you know this. What comes next? Is somebody going to get eaten? They are? You are so right! Somebody is going to get eaten, and the rest of the explorers will not know what happened to her. Angela crawls into a side passage to look for promising rocks. She becomes monster kibble. However, an earthquake shakes the mine right after the unfortunate woman gets her chance to see the inside of a uterus again (that could be a reincarnation joke; it could also be something else). The powerful trembler causes part of the tunnel to collapse; Geoff and the others think that Angela is buried alive.
Even worse, the collapse seals off the way out, and Mr. Hemmings did not tell the company about the expedition because he wanted to keep any gold they found for himself. To escape from the mine, the group must descend to the condemned lower levels, the area that the original miners considered the most dangerous part of the accursed hole. Faced with that prospect, Mr. Morgan goes all collywobbles in his knickers. He gets even worse when they stumble on Angela's half-digested remains. A practical member of the group tries to explain why the dead woman looks all dissolved and sticky by saying that acid can pool in tunnels.
Just add the following to the monster movie checklist:
- Way out blocked by unexpected disaster.
- "Nobody knows we are here."
- Old, tough guy turns into a wuss.
- "There is a perfectly rational explanation that Angela, who was killed by a cave-in, looks partially digested."
We are solidly in ho-hum monster movie script territory here, and the plot is moving awfully slow. Sometimes, just sometimes, the film gets it right, and you feel the claustrophobic darkness closing in on the frightened characters. Enjoy those moments, because they do not last for long. More than once, the wind rushing through the tunnels completely ruined any ominous atmosphere that my imagination managed to create. Anyone looking for a drinking game to play during "The Strangeness" should take a drink whenever it gets windy.
Hold the phone! That is why that romance-challenged Internet reviewer called the creature "Lovecraftian." They had read "The Shadow Out of Time," and connected the mysterious wind with the subterranean horrors referred to as the flying polyps. Egad but that is tenuous.
Dan waits until the others are sleeping, then he creeps away to search for an escape route. What? The person who is the duty expert on the Golden Spike Mine, who knows its history and legends better than anyone else, decides to wander off alone? In the movie "Scream," that would be like Randy suddenly asking for a keg and a hooker. It's insane to think that the knowledgeable writer would do such a thing.
Anyway, Dan meets the monster. I am going to have to describe it, aren't I? Oh, goodness. Okay, here goes: it's a giant, man-eating vagina slug. I swear, that is the most coherent description I can muster. The thing is nearly nine feet tall, with fleshy tentacles sticking out of the main mass. It's what is on top of the main mass that gives me pause, because it looks exactly like that part of a woman (the immediate outside at least). Hence, giant, man-eating vagina slug.
From now on I will refer to the creature as the "you know what," "woo mama," "tuna flesh sandwich," or some other less-offensive term.
Everybody hears Dan getting swallowed by the you know what. Geoff attempts to find the doomed man, and he does locate the writer's body - gooed to the ceiling. It sucked the poor guy in, then spat him onto the ceiling! Since when did those do that? The prospect of becoming mommy parts chow completely freaks out Mr. Morgan. He runs off into the dark tunnels; the rampaging poontang monster promptly gobbles him up. Then Tony gets sucked into the mobile meat curtains, but he does not stay there very long. Dan finds his friend half-digested and stuck to the floor by slimy secretions.
Man, this thing's problem is that it has an upset stomach, which is probably from swallowing its food whole all the time. No teeth, you know.
The last three members of the cast are still looking for a way out of the tunnels when Hemmings loses it and comes after Geoff with a pickaxe. Our hero is only knocked unconscious by the surprise assault, but Cindy is helpless as Hemmings closes in for the kill. Suddenly, the terrified woman sees something behind the psychotic mine manager. He turns around and gets snatched up by the slimy horror. Let me tell you, the stop motion scene of Hemmings being eaten by the woo mama is a humdinger. The creature wraps its tentacles around the unfortunate meat treat, then swallows his noodle! Muffled screaming is heard as Hemmings suffers a slow, painful death by digestive asphyxiation. Remember: this is all done with stop motion, it might even be claymation. What it looks like is a love taco (flesh flaps and all) trying to suck the head off of a Han Solo action figure.
My word, that is disturbing.
Where we are at with that standard monster movie checklist:
- Freaked out character runs off in a panic and gets eaten.
- Close friend found half-eaten.
- Boss goes crazy and tries to kill the hero and the girl.
- Monster sneaks up behind the crazy boss, thus saving the hero and girl.
- Hero and girl kill the monster.
Oops, got ahead of myself. That last one has not happened yet, but Geoff and Cindy are working on it. Fear not, for the fearless hero and his trusty companion shall vanquish the man-gobbling beast back to the nether regions from whence it came.
Yeah, Google should have a blast matching search keywords to this review.
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|Things I Learned From This Movie:
- Obituated: O·bit·u·at·ed (oh-bich-oo-ate-ed) v., 1. Being dead according to the newspaper.
- Apples grow on kelp plants.
- Plastic explosive is indistinguishable from Amish Friendship Bread starter.
- Writers suffer from selective hearing.
- Geologists are trained to recognize different ores by their taste.
- Wind chimes were invented by paranoid miners.
- Incandescent light bulbs usually last more than 100 years.
- A SLR camera's flash can be used as a rescue beacon.
- 6 mins - Amy, you need to shut up for five seconds.
- Opening credits (7 mins) - That last name is the written equivalent of an Escher drawing.
- 14 mins - Did it just eat a pig?
- 34 mins - Sitting beside Morgan in the waiting room of a dentist's office would be an interesting experience.
- 40 mins - When is this scene going to end?
- 50 mins - Who cares?
- 66 mins - "Fine with me, gov'nor. 'E'll be back for a snack bonny soon. Cheerio!"
- 78 mins - I am going to have nightmares about that thing for sure.
- 86 mins - The most disturbing part about this is the thick slime oozing from the creature's "maw."
|Audio clips in wav format
|Starving actors speak out
|Dan: "Regardless of what anybody knows, there's an overwhelming amount of evidence that something is up there."
Geoff: "And you wanna find it?"
Angela: "Well, I'd like to know what happened to the Golden Spike. According to the county records for surveyors' information, they gave no reason for its closing."
Geoff: "Now, that's something I'd find of value myself. You know, it never hurts to know all you can about a played out mine, before you go crawling around in it."
|The group discussing their options after discovering that their escape route is blocked. Hemmings makes an "ulp" sound at the end because Geoff punches him.
|Dan: "Voices from the past!"
Hemmings: "Oh, don't be poetic. If you know something, spit it out."
Dan: "When the dig finally closed in 1883, the miners sealed the inner chambers to prevent whatever was picking them off from getting out."
|Cindy: "Where's Dan?"
Morgan: "Hey, what is it?"
Hemmings: "He's dead, isn't he, Calvert?"
Cindy: "No God, please no!"
Hemmings: "You've got to let us know what we're up against!"
Geoff: "I don't know."
Geoff: "Shut up, you big, dumb fool!"
Cindy: "I want my husband!"
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