Greetings Retro cinephiles and welcome to the newest addition of Daniel Th1rte3n’s Top 10 films! So far we’ve examined China’s first cinematic super-hero Inframan, and everyone’s favorite prehistoric hunter from the future, Yor! This time we’ll fix our gaze on a subterranean horror that would give Lovecraft the creeps: The Strangeness!
I first happened upon The Strangeness during the early morning hours one sweltering summer on TV 38 out of Boston. TV 38 was always a source for great science fiction and horror films (often shown on their Movie Loft program), but once the midnight hour had passed, a lawless wasteland of obscure b-movie gold would explode in a phantasmagorical panorama, usually courtesy of the Movie Greats Network program. Movie Greats had to be named by either someone with a great sense of irony, or someone that had no concept of what a film even was. Either way I loved almost everything they showed, but The Strangeness topped them all!
The film begins with a young couple, heading up to the long abandoned (and supposedly haunted) Golden Spike mine, who are promptly attacked by a mysterious creature. The scene appears to not be lit properly (or at all), which actually enhances the eerie atmosphere! So now that it’s established that the mine is inhabited by a murderous beast it seems as good a time as any to introduce us to a large group of victi….err, I mean people (among their numbers are a geologist, a writer and his wife, some veteran miners and a shady businessman supposedly exploring the cave at his companies behest, but secretly there of his own accord to steal any gold found within the mine) who are investigating to determine if the Golden Spike is worth reopening. Soon after entering the mine, the group becomes trapped within its claustrophobic confines by means of a cave-in caused by an earthquake, but as we well know, they are not alone.
As is often the case in films such as these, the cast slowly runs afoul of the creature that makes its home among the passages and shadows of the dilapidated mine. What makes The Strangeness a cut above such stories is the creature itself, a writhing mass of tentacles and crawling, shambling, drooling horror! The beast is brought to life not by means of a man in a suit, but by the laborious process of stop motion animation, a bold choice for an ultra low budget film shot on a tight schedule. And, while the monster may not always be convincing, it is indeed effective, not only for its design (which brings to mind the eldritch horrors described by H.P. Lovecraft as mentioned above) but for the obvious care it was given by the filmmakers.
So, if you’re looking for a creature feature with a truly unique monster, give The Strangeness a try! The DVD, loaded with additional material including a hilarious commentary track (the filmmakers are under no illusions as to the quality of their film), can be ordered right here!
Next time it’s monsters versus squirt guns! Stay Spooky!
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