THE STRANGENESS (1980) Reviews and overview



The Strangeness is a 1980 American horror feature film directed by David Michael Hillman [now Melanie Ann Phillips] from a screenplay co-written with Chris Huntley (who also acts). The movie stars Dan Lunham, Terri Berland, Rolf Theison, Keith Hunt and Mark Sawicki.


Many of underground scenes were shot on a set built in the director’s grandparents’ garage and this semi-amateur feature cost approximately $25,000. Ernest D. Farino provided “additional animation”. Unreleased for five years, it was finally distributed on VHS by Trans World Entertainment in 1985.


A group of explorers surveying an abandoned goldmine are trapped in a cave in and find themselves at the mercy of a slimy, mysterious creature with a vagina-like head.



“It’s very much from the H.P. Lovecraft school of monsterdom. A Freudian nightmare of tentacles and um… gaping “mouth.” For what was 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.” Cathode Ray Mission

“Sure, it’s cheap and gritty, but also a quite good monster movie with great locations and a very bizarre monster. Shot on weekends and on spare time during one year, this a movie with a lot of love you actually can see.” Ninja Dixon

“At half its length, this would probably quite entertaining, as it is, it is very very slow and very very uneventful, but not completely without charm. The monster is extremely cute and there are even two or three scenes that are well-made enough to be worth watching.” The Horror!?

the strangeness poster

“Long stretches of nothing, extended periods of ennui, with an occasional glimpse of a tentacled creature animated by stop motion. No feeling of menace as the film plods to a routine climax.” John Stanley, Creature Features

“I was surprised by how the film managed to hold my attention, despite the bland acting on hand and monotonous “dark blue paper mache as cave” settings. Check it out, but don’t pay too much for a copy…” Basement of Ghoulish Decadence



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The Strangeness is a light-weight entertainment and there’s no point trying to say otherwise, but  … for all it’s flaws it’s been made with guts and spirit and determination. From its wonderful title to it’s eye-opening, gender-busting monster finale, this precursor to such recent hits as The Descent and The Cave may not win any prizes, but it’s well worth a look if you love the shadowy recesses of the genre.” Stephen Thrower, Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents (FAB Press, 2007)

nightmare USA stephen thrower

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“Effects are sub-standard, even for a film from the ’80s, and its budget shows the film’s limitations. It does utilize the 80’s makeup effects standard, which was stop motion animation, but shows them in a form similar to the earlier works of Ray Harryhausen. I believe the amateur effects add to the films camp value and charming nature.” Chris Mayo, Severed Cinema

” …it’s a minor movie that has its charms and was clearly a labor of love but nothing more. That out of the way, fans of lesser-known cave creature flicks like What Waits Below and The Boogens will probably have a lot of fun. Just don’t expect anything special.” Joseph Howell, Talk of Horrors

“It’s nothing close to revolutionary, but it doesn’t pretend to be, and it’s miles beyond anything you’d think they could come up with given the circumstances. It’s got a creepy atmosphere and a “can-do” spirit and somehow the two complement, rather than conflict, with each other.” Ryan Carey, Trash Film Guru

“I love the absurdity of the monster. I even love the obvious Carpenter inspired soundtrack. But the film doesn’t do much with those elements. The Hemmings subplot (another clear nod to Alien) goes nowhere, the monster is never explained, the setting is never properly utilized, and the lack of on-screen violence feels like a cop-out.” David Grant, You’ll Die of Dysentery

Cast and characters:

  • Dan Lunham … Geoff Calvert
  • Terri Berland … Cindy Flanders
  • Rolf Theison … Myron Hemmings
  • Keith Hurt … Morgan
  • Mark Sawicki … Dan Flanders
  • Chris Huntley … Tony Ruggles
  • Diane Borcyckowski … Angela Platt
  • Robin Sortman … Brian
  • Arlene Buchmann … Amy

Filming locations:

Newport Beach, California


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