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The Screwfly Solution (2006)

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Overall Rating 64%
Overall Rating
Ranked #3,938
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A strange virus renders the entire human male population into homicidal maniacs who end up wiping out all females, leaving a woman and her daughter to fend for themselves. --IMDb
Jason Priestley
Jason Priestley
Kerry Norton
Kerry Norton
Linda Darlow
Linda Darlow
Brenna O'Brien
Brenna O'Brien
Steve Lawlor
Steve Lawlor
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Review by Chad
Added: June 30, 2009
When I saw the final list of who was directing what for the second season of Masters of Horror, I found myself mentally dividing the episodes up into three sections: the first section was "I have to see that as soon as possible", the second was "I want to see that eventually", and the third was "I have no interest in ever seeing that." I find myself diving into that latter category now that I am trying to get each and every last one of the entries listed on this site, and that brings us to Joe Dante's The Screwfly Solution. Surprisingly, I found that placing this film into that category was a mistake, but that's not to say that it was one of the better entries in the season either.

We begin in a small Florida town, where we catch up with two neighbors going through their morning routines. A guy is watering his plants and hosing off his patio, while his female neighbor is tending to her own plants and striking up a casual conversation. Nothing too terribly unusual here, until the lady looks over and notices that he is nonchalantly hosing blood off of his patio. She calls the police, and they eventually discover that he has murdered three women... and he claims that God told him to do it. A bizarre man? He sure is, and he is just one of many.

You see, men along the southern coast are suddenly turning against their female counterparts in violent ways, and in one town alone, there have been 1,100 casualties reported: all women, all savagely murdered. One man snapping and murdering a few women? That wouldn't even make the front page of a small town newspaper. A couple of men knocking off a handful of women? That might raise a few eyebrows. Every man in a given town killing every woman that they come across? That catches the attention of the government, and this leads us to Bella (Linda Darlow), an epidemiologist who believes that there is some sort of mind-altering disease responsible for this outbreak of violence. Her friends Alan (Jason Priestley) and Barney (Elliott Gould), a pair of entomologists who have just arrived back in the States after doing some research in South America, also find themselves wrapped up in this mystery after a few unforeseen events occur, and thanks to Alan's involvement, his family - wife Anne (Kerry Norton) and daughter Amy (Brenna O'Brien) - also get sucked into a dilemma that is quickly spiraling out of control.

There are two distinct "acts" to be found in this film, with the first setting up the storyline as described in my synopsis. This part of the film is downright great, and after about twenty minutes into the running time, I found myself believing that I had found the sleeper hit of the season. We are treated to an interesting and original premise while witnessing some damned fine gore effects, and as we learn more about what is truly going on, we genuinely want to see where the filmmakers will take this story. The characters are believable and the writing is top-notch, and though I had a few qualms with the acting abilities of the leads, it did nothing to hinder my enjoyment of the overall product. If you had asked me to give a rating on the film at the thirty-minute mark, I would have easily gone with a 9 or even a 10/10.

Around this point, however, something happens. I don't want to spoil the huge twist in the plot, but suffice it to say that the story starts to head in an entirely different direction. Yes, the femicide is still a major part of the storyline, but after one particular event, we start to see it from another perspective. This is where the film starts to lose steam, as the film medium simply couldn't support the scope of this story. This is not to say that the story itself is at fault as it delivers a legitimate message while at the same time providing an entertaining look at an all-too-possible scenario, but what was crammed into about twenty minutes would have required at least an hour to work. Perhaps the original story by James Tiptree, Jr. handled it better or maybe this would have worked better as either a feature-length film or even a miniseries, but as a fifty-five minute entry for Masters of Horror... it just didn't have the time needed to succeed.

As an added deterrent, the focus shifts away from Jason Priestley and Elliott Gould to Kerry Norton and Brenna O'Brien at this point. The problem with this is that both Priestley and Gould were entertaining and enjoyable to watch, while their female counterparts were just sort of there. I'm not going to come right out and say that they turned in bad performances, but I will say that both of them were rather bland and lifeless; sure, they succeeded in telling the story and playing their parts, but their character portrayals were nothing to write home about. This may not have been so bad had we not just spent half the movie watching enjoyable performances, but as it stands, the shift is all too noticeable.

As for my final opinion, I'm torn down the middle just like the film itself was. It starts out so good and promises to quickly make its way into your favorites for the season or even the series, but it then starts to lose its way and becomes just another routine story. I wouldn't go so far as to label that second half "awful" or "horrible", but it's certainly a giant step down. The Screwfly Solution was disappointing not because of what it was, but because of what it could have been. 6/10.
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