The Strangeness (1985)

A trippy title sequence follows the brief set up of this creature feature.  Saul Bass it ain’t but it is still a fun sequence nonetheless.  An abandoned gold mine called the Golden Spike is reopened in order to strip out the remaining gold as the mine was abandoned long before it was played out.  The miners refused to work it because there was something amiss in the Golden Spike with miners going missing and getting killed in unexplained ways.  Ancient Indian lore refers to a great god that hates whites and lives in a cave on the mountain.  Though Morgan (Keith Hurt) who is the grizzled freebooter hired for his experience as a guide puts little stock in it and uses it to rib annoying assed writer, Dan (Mark Sawicki who went on to do visual effects for films the likes of THE TERMINATOR and BULLET TO THE HEAD).  

Hemmings (Rolf Theison) is a weaselly company man that knows more than he lets on to the ragtag group of geologists, spelunkers, and miners.  He doesn’t bother to let the company know his team is in the Golden Spike and when the inevitable cave-in occurs the others find out that there is no hope for rescue and they have to find their own way out.  Also I can’t get over the tag-along annoying writer and his hot wife (Terri Berland).  Why the hell does the writer wear sunglasses underground?  Like ALIEN, or more like ALIEN 2: ON EARTH, the underground team is picked off one by one by the slimy creature that would make Ray Harryhausen hang his head.  Though Giger may approve of this Freudian monstrosity that is Blinky.

The red hue from the flares works well in adding to the atmosphere.  The close paper machè walls and small circles of light add to the claustrophobic feeling that pervades the film.  Overall the film is very well shot considering it is not a professional film by any means.  The acting is middling to unbearable with most of it falling into the melodramatic unbearable area.  Be sure to watch out for Hurt’s character, Morgan.  The accent comes and goes and varies.  It’s truly a hoot.  

The filmmakers began shooting while the script was still in development and finished the script before they wrapped.  Shockingly this does not affect the story in a negative way.  The movie still has a solid start, decent middle and end.  Shot in 1980 but sat in the can for five years before it found distribution when it was picked up by Trans World Entertainment who insisted on adding on the funky synth score.  

The effects are pedestrian at worst though highly innovative, the stop-motion creature was referred to as Blinky and Hemmings’ well deserved death scene looks like it was cut from MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch.  Many of underground scenes were shot in a set in the director’s grandparents’ garage and this odd little creature feature only cost about $25,000 and shot mainly in Burbank, California.  Check this one out.  I enjoyed it more than similar films like EQUINOX.  THE STRANGENESS has a pretty good story, pretty well shot and it has a lot of heart to boot.

Transferred from a 16mm negative the picture quality is the best that can be expected from an amateurly lit 16mm film once considered lost by the filmmakers.  The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen and the color and restoration look quite good.  Its available in a limited quantity from Code Red on their Big Cartel site.  

Special Features included:
  • Audio Commentary with Melanie Anne Phillips, Mark Sawicki and Chris Huntley, moderated by Jeff McKay
  • On-camera interviews with: 
    • Melanie Anne Phillips
    • Mark Sawicki
    • Chris Huntley
  • Short Film Collection
    • EAT AT JOE’S
    • THE END
  • Photo Gallery
  • Blinky



2 thoughts on “The Strangeness (1985)

  1. The Strangeness is really good considering it is a totally amateur indie flick. The sets are really good considering most of them are built inside a garage!


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