The Screwfly Solution (Masters of Horror)
|"The Screwfly Solution"|
|Masters of Horror episode|
DVD cover for The Screwfly Solution
|Episode no.||Season 2|
|Directed by||Joe Dante|
|Written by||Sam Hamm|
|Original air date||December 8, 2006|
"The Screwfly Solution" is the seventh episode in the second season of Masters of Horror. It is based upon the 1977 science fiction short story of the same name by Alice Sheldon (under the alias Raccoona Sheldon), credited in the film as James Tiptree, Jr. Many of the scenes in Sam Hamm's script are expansions of single lines in this epistolary story. Director Joe Dante read the story in the 1980s and had wanted to make a film version ever since. He presented the story as straight horror, eschewing his usual humor and without using his usual company of stock actors. Jason Priestley and Elliott Gould were the stars. When interviewed while shooting the film in Vancouver, the director summarized it:
"It's vaguely political. It's not political in the same way that 'Homecoming' is. It is about a plague that starts in the southern half of the U.S. and moves around the rest of the world. It is a story in which men are moved to kill all the women. It is extremely dark."— Joe Dante, Calgary Sun
When a virus overcomes the male population of the world and turns them into murderous psychopaths, a mother and daughter escape across a country where their safety is in question.
Over the summer, a series of femicides break out all over the world, which comes to the notice of Anne Alstein (Kerry Norton), whose husband Alan (Jason Priestley) is working alongside Barney (Elliott Gould) on the solution to an insect problem in the rain forest. The two have a daughter, Amy (Brenna O'Brien). Their friend/epidemiologist Bella Sartiano (Linda Darlow) leaves for Jacksonville, Florida, where a large group of femicides took place. She interviews an infected army private, William Holicky (Steve Lawlor), who murdered a stripper at a club. The aggression is linked to sexual arousal and many of the men use religious reasons to justify the murders. Bella is later killed by the infected mayor.
Before her death, Bella informed Barney of the epidemic. Barney and Alan head to Washington D.C. to consult with officials if the cause of the condition is natural or bioterrorism. The only way to avoid it is chemical castration, with the alternative being actual castration. Barney takes the shot but Alan refuses, stating he'll be fine with pills—until he begins to have dreams of killing Anne. On the plane ride home, Alan witnesses two murders and realizes that every man on the plane is infected, himself included. He calls his wife and daughter to say goodbye, telling them that he won't be himself.
In September, Anne and Amy have continued on to Canada with other women. The two encounter the infected Alan, who sexually assaults his daughter until Anne shoots him in the legs. At Alan's struggling insistence, they escape, but Amy, not understanding the situation, returns to Alan, and Anne arrives too late to save her. It is presumed that she was forced to kill Alan. Having gone unconscious, Anne wakes up in a hospital where a rash of murders are being inflicted on the female patients. Barney and Anne escape, and Anne wears a "man" disguise to hide herself from the infected males. She overhears a conversation that indicates the female population has been wiped out.
Soon after, Anne tries to save Barney, who becomes very ill. Barney encourages Anne to keep running, as she's the only survivor of the female population. Over the winter, Barney dies peacefully. Anne tries to escape hunters who discover her; as she flees, the source of the epidemic is discovered. Bright aliens formed of light are the culprits, using alien technology to create the femicide epidemic. They kill the hunters that pursued Anne, apparently to take some of their brain matter, and she escapes into the woods. By December, all female life on Earth is presumed to have been exterminated, leaving the infected men to slowly die off.
The film was shot using a digital camera for the first time. The director chose this experimental technique especially to give the film a different look. Jason Priestley explained his interpretation of the motivation of the scientist Alan, stating:
"For me, his knowledge and his level of understanding is what drives him as a character, and then his love for his wife and his daughter. That's what ends up giving him the moment of clarity before he figures it out. But, it's a heavy piece. It's a heavy piece for him. I always look for characters and try to play characters that have a turn, that aren't just one note."— Jason Priestley, UGO
Michael Gingold of Fangoria magazine, awarded the film three skulls for its "stinging mix of sociopolitical commentary and traditional horror mayhem". The political message was seen as a link between religious fervor and misogyny with special reference to Muslim fundamentalism. The effect of violent horror movies upon men within the story was thought to be witty self-reference though the overall tone was considered "deadly serious". The lead actor, Jason Priestley, was thought to have been weaker than the role required while the performances of Kerry Norton, as Alan's wife Anne, and Brenna O'Brien, as her daughter Amy, were thought sympathetic and more effective.
Peter Brown of iF magazine felt that the presentation of the main feature was too rushed and would have been better at 1.5 to 2 hours rather than the 58 minutes allowed by the 1 hour format. Also the denouement was revealed too soon and so suspense was lacking in the second half. He thought that the DVD extras were interesting, providing Joe Dante's account of the conversion from the short story and details of the effects used for the aliens in the story. Overall, his rating for this DVD was C.
In the scene in which soldiers are shown various stimulating programs, one of them is shown a scene from the Masters of Horror episode "Imprint", which was not shown on American television.
Bella Sartiano takes part of her name from George Sartiano, who worked with Joe Dante on Looney Tunes Back in Action, and shared a love for b-movies and odd films (Joe let him copy his tape of Song of the South).
- The Screwfly Solution on IMDb
- Interview with Sam Hamm by Avedon Carol about the Masters of Horror adaptation
- Robert de Laroche (2007), L'enfer du cinéma, Paris: Scali, p. 136, ISBN 2-35012-158-5
- Kyle Braun, Joe Dante of The Screwfly Solution, UGO, archived from the original on June 22, 2008, retrieved Aug 9, 2008
- Glenn Erickson (2007), The Screwfly Solution, DVD Talk
- "Reuters Entertainment Summary", Washington Post, August 21, 2006
- Bruce Kirkland (August 11, 2006), Masters of misery, Calgary Sun
- Eric J. Lyman (11/10/2006), Aldrich, Chabrol tributes build up Turin film fest, The Hollywood Reporter Check date values in:
- Michael Gingold, Masters of Horror: The Screwfly Solution, Fangoria, archived from the original (– Scholar search) on January 21, 2007, retrieved August 9, 2008
- Review: Masters of Horror – Joe Dante – 'The Screwfly Solution', iF magazine, June 13, 2007, archived from the original on October 6, 2007