Year Released: 1985
Director: Melanie Anne Phillips
Writers: Chris Huntley, Melanie Anne Phillips
Stars: Dan Lunham, Terri Berland, Rolf Theison
A low budget gem, this movie uses a time worn plot and executes it with gusto, and although
its special fx – stop motion animation – look primitive by today’s standards, I found them to be very
amusing. When you learn a little trivia about he movie and the location,
the movie takes on a spooky tone indeed. According to internet sources (IMDB) “About a month
after shooting their scenes some real life miners hired to see if the mine was worth reopening
entered and went further in than the film crew had, then died from poison gas exposure.”
Now that’s creepy.
The movie starts with a boy and his girl inspecting an abandoned mine. Cliche strikes almost
immediately, as we have not just a dying flashlight at the perfect moment, but an earthquake too. Then the monster strikes.
I can’t blame it. Wouldn’t you be a little ticked if someone wearing cheesy early-80s
fashions popped into your living room? I would.
It seems a team of spelunkers have gained permission to enter the
abandoned mine for some reason. It doesn’t matter why. It serves the purpose of getting
some women, men, and a horrific mustache into the mine to serve as victims. We have a
bitch, a disco queen, guys that are rough around the edges, an overly-talkative writer, a
drinking Australian, and the wannabe Magnum PI mustache. Higgens? It’s not ok. Thankfully,
most of these annoying stereotypes meet fate in the arms of the monster, if you can call its
Trapped people running around in a confined space trying to evade a big thing that wants to eat them. It’s “The Thing/Alien” plot. Some have done it better and
some worse. (Note this movie was made many years before Alien.)
I have to admit there are moments of really cheesy acting, and the plot does drag at points.
But if you can get past the terrible old jokes the director spent too much film on, and seemingly aimless plodding
around in the dark, “The Strangeness” keeps your attention.
This movie is probably ok for anyone over ten years old. The monster is a little nightmarish.
I found a couple of things interesting. There is a fine sound effect early on, when we are
hearing the monster moving around. It sounds like someone is squeezing a cat (I really hope
they didn’t squeeze a cat). It’s creepy and I thought this sound effect at this moment in the
film was better than most big-budget movies. Way to Foley!
Watch for the El Camino. There’s a geek who foreshadows the “creepy hip” cop in Cabin
Fever. There’s also a brooding, creepy atmosphere of being in a dark mine that I like. The
beast has a close resemblance to a female body part and was nicknamed “Binky” by the
crew. The stop-motion effects are interesting, like greased up action figures, and I suppose
not all that bad for the time period and the budget. The creature concept is somewhat
original, given the date, but probably inspired by manga. I had to laugh when one of the
characters told another one to “put that flare out, there’s probably still some gas in there” and
they’re holding old-style Coleman lanterns that contain a liquid fuel reservoir and illuminate with a flame.
What did you think of “The Strangeness?”