Masters of Horror: The Screwfly Solution
Dir: Joe Dante
Okay. I'll admit it. Before The Screwfly Solution, I'd never seen an episode of the Masters of Horror. Don't ask me why. I don't have a good answer. Other than that I like my horror like I like my women: without commercial breaks and more than an hour long.
I've tried that joke out for three hours and I still can't make it work. Moving on.
Needless to say, when a friend of mine said that he had picked up The Screwfly Solution on DVD, I was hesitant. But as details began to creep forward, my interest started to perk up.
"Elliot Gould is in it? M*A*S*H* is one of my favourite movies! Jason Priestly? Well... he's a very competent actor... Joe Dante directed? Joe DANTE??? Man! I loved Gremlins! I loved Innerspace! I... hated Small Soldiers, but that's almost forgivable! GREMLINS! What a great movie.
The Screwfly Solution is loosely about a madness that slowly drifts north from the equator that makes men kill women in a violent rage, spouting religious epitaphs as they do so. That's pretty much the premise. The scientists (of whom Jason Priestley and Elliot Gould are two) know what's happening, but they're powerless to stop it. I could basically just skip everything in the middle and give you the end, but then I wouldn't be a very good reviewer, would I?
Or would I?
You see... the problem is... there isn't that much else to go on. Screwfly, like a lot of Dante's other works, seems to suffer from the problem of trying to be too much at once. Is it a relevant social commentary or a dark comedy or a horror flick? He's able to pull off this sort of balancing act in Gremlins, which is actually ABOUT something (curiosity vs. banal existence) and pretty much gets it right in The 'Burbs (curiosity vs... uh... banal existence?) but this time around, there's nothing there.
It could be that there wasn't enough time to sort out all the details in Sam Hamm's (writer of Batman and Monkeybone) adaptation of James Tiptee Jr.'s short story. It could be that they were focused on making it a cool, survival horror story in the style of a zombie flick. It have been a lot of things. But it's not.
Worse yet, it's almost entirely devoid of tension. Certainly, there are some real "uh oh, he/she is in trouble now" moments. There's some really gripping imagery. But on the whole, it doesn't gel.
And I have no idea what Elliot Gould was doing on this project. He couldn't have been phoning it in more. In fact, I think he was texting it in. I genuinely enjoy Gould in most things he does. But I suppose I should face it. It's not 1975 and Robert Altman didn't direct this.
If you'd like to see a movie that's similar and funny and scary, I would like to suggest renting a copy of Undead. You'll have more fun, I promise.
And with that, I think I'll skip Masters of Horror for the time being.
5/10. Passable and some of the ideas of the story resonated with me for a few days, but it probably made a better short story than a teleplay.