08 December 2014



German Title:
Abwärts ins Grauen

USA, 1987
Director: Melanie Anne Philips
(as David Michael Hillman)


Long before "The Descent" (yay!) and "The Cave" (nay.), there was this little cave-themed low-budget horror flick, which sadly is rather overlooked and forgotten nowadays. Okay, it's far from being a classic and I somehow understand why no-one really cared about it (didn't the same happen to similar-themed 80s flicks like "The Boogens" or "What Waits Below"?), but I have a soft spot for it because... well, even though it's cheap, tacky and somewhat ridiculous, it always manages to give me one helluva good time.

"The Strangeness" (strange title) follows a group of explorers who enter an abandoned goldmine in search for a treasure where they stumble upon a weird-looking stop-motion tentacle-monster with some kinda... um, vagina-head.
Yes, a vagina-head. Look at the screenshots! Somewhat hilarious, somewhat fascinating. The stop-motion effects look silly as hell, but I can't help find this creature charming.

I found various threads on Imdb where people discussing the bizarre look of the monster, trying to connect it to the fact that the female(!) director Melanie Anne Philips (who made only 2 films) released the film under the male name David Michael Hillman! It's unclear if she did it only to disguise herself under a man's name in order to sell the film, or if she got gender reassignment surgery after shooting the film. Looking at the monster with its tentacles (some kinda phallus symbol?) and its vagina-like mouth - was there some kind of a hidden message in it? Like "This is how I feel right now."? I have no idea, but it's fascinating to think that a woman expressed her gender wish via a cheesy-looking horror film monster.

I'm rambling, back to the actual movie. The whole thing feels a bit like someone put the quirky characters of "My Bloody Valentine" (plus: some guy that looks like Mick Taylor's cousin) into the Italian trashfest "Alien 2: On Earth" and added a poor man's Lovecraftian tentacle-monster. The first half is a bit dull and includes a few extremely superfluous scenes. Fortunately, the second half is much better, especially the last 30 minutes which are packed with eerie sequences, lots of well-shot and eerily-lit cave sets.

Gore is sparse and there's clearly not enough monster action, but for the most part, it's all pretty entertaining and quite tense. The finale involves some cool flashlight suspense, some ace-looking red light that makes the monster almost look like a rose, and some of the cheesiest fire effects since "The Ghost Galleon". I admit, I somehow love "The Strangeness". It's fun and it's charming. I like that shit!



  1. Never heard of this one.....
    We enjoyed the "Boogens".... Even bought the paperback when the movie was released.....
    We always enjoy a creepy tentacled monster....

  2. "We always enjoy a creepy tentacled monster" - in this case, you will definitely enjoy The Strangeness too :)

  3. I have been wanting to see this for years - I know it's not great, but I think I'll be as charmed and entertained as you were!


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