The Strangeness (1985)
Once there was a golden age of late night television. One that wasn't filled with infomercials and were some channels actually went off the air for the night. But there was a few that stayed on. These channels were a prized companion for an insomniac like me. They'd fill up their late night line up with reruns of old shows and B-movies. Most nights I'd watch reruns of The Odd Couple, The Honeymooners and Star Trek. Afterwards it would be time for The Twilight Zone or maybe on of the other channels would have some sort of crazy ass movie on for me to watch. Anything from Bill Rebane's snowbound Fog riff The Demons of Ludlow to Lindsay Shonteff's bizarre 007 spoof No. 1 of the Secret Service. Or perhaps it would be a Larry Buchanan's ridiculous The Loch Ness Horror . No matter what though there was always something strange on. Something like The Strangeness.
I'm not even sure how long ago it was I saw The Strangeness on late night TV. But it was only once. It staryed burned into my mind like some half remembered legend. When I found out it was coming out on DVD I knew I had to get it.
Now the plot of The Strangeness has been done a million times over. From the original The Thing to Alien or the countless films the Sci-Fi channel poops out on a weekly basis. Put a group of people together in a isolated and claustrophobic setting. Let their personalities and agendas clash and then chuck a monster into the mix. In this case it's a motley group that enter the Gold Spike mine. They're there to see if it's worth reopening after being abandoned many years ago. It closed suddenly due to many of the miners disappearing. Our group consists of two buddies who are miners of some sort. An Irish(?) spelunker. The grumpy company guy. The all business geologist. And a writer who's putting a book together about the mine and his hot blonde wife, who might be a photographer. Where The Strangeness shines is that we get to know these characters. They sit around a campfire and talk and open up. We get to learn a bit about them and what motivates them. Well not really with the lady geologist. She's * Spoiler* the first to bite it. She never really comes across. But the rest are quite interesting and fleshed out. With the exception of the aforementioned geologist and the company rep all of these characters are people you'd want to hangout with. Which makes the fact that most of them are going to get offed by a monster that much sadder. That leads me to another aspect of the film I love. The first couple of times I watched, I wasn't really sure who would survive and who the hero/heroine would turn out to be.
The Strangeness itself is great. It's very much from the H.P. Lovecraft school of monsterdom. A Freudian nightmare of tentacles and um...gapping "mouth." For what was a certainly a very low budget the stop motion effects are very well done. The monster is lit to give us just enough of a glimpse of it. Enough to get a sense of it without lingering too long as to wear out it's welcome.
The mines are also lit very well. They appear to be lit by on-screen sources such as lanterns, flashlights and flares. A lot of the edges of the screen and parts of the characters are often shrouded in shadows. This adds greatly to the overall Claustrophobic atmosphere of the mines.
The film might start a little slow but stick with it. This is so we can get to know the characters and care about them. After they get in the mine the film starts to build up the creepiness and atmosphere until your invested in the characters and story. Watch The Strangeness with an open mind and an appreciation for low-budget '80's horror filmmaking and I think you'll be greatly rewarded. Proceed into the Gold Spike mine and be sure to look behind you.