Pop Culture Gadabout
Monday, December 11, 2006
      ( 12/11/2006 02:16:00 PM ) Bill S.  

ONE REALLY DISTURBING DITTY BAG – Though I continue to hold that Joe Dante & Sam Hamm's politically charged "Homecoming" was one of the highlights of Master of Horror's first season, I was definitely looking forward to seeing what the duo concocted with season two's less current events-loaded offering. Adapting James Tiptree Jr.'s apocalyptic s-f horror tale about the battle of the sexes, "The Screwfly Solution," the tale concerns an epidemic that slowly spreads among all men across the planet. The disease turns aroused males psychotically violent, so that they're driven to attack and kill whoever spurs their sexual excitement. (Though the script skips around the point, we're led to believe that this is an affliction only striking straight males.) In pure B-movie s-f fashion, Hamm's script opens on a trio of scientists (among 'em, Jason Priestley & Elliot Gould) working for the National Institutes of Health as they attempt to detect the reasons behind a growing upsurge in male-against-female violence, then narrows into a tale of survival as the wife (Kerry Norton) and daughter (Brenna O'Brien) of one of the threesome struggles to escape the spreading madness.

Hamm & Dante are required to negotiate some tricky territory here: depicting violent misogyny without themselves succumbing to its visual allures. It's a trap more than one gifted horror filmmaker has failed to avoid, but Dante generally manages to sidestep it, in part by shooting on a digital camera that gives the piece the proto-documentary tone of the original Night of the Living Dead. And where "Homecoming" abounded in sardonic jokiness and film buff in-refs, "Solution" is the most straightforward piece of horror storytelling I can ever recall coming from Dante, who more typically works the comedy side of the genre (Piranha, Gremlins I and II). Read somewhere that the director originally saw Tiptree's story as a possible full-length feature, but couldn't get anyone interested in producing it since the material is so downbeat. The multi-plex's loss is Showtime's gain, I guess. As much as I enjoy his comedies (Innerspace and Matinee, in particular), I'd love to someday see a full-bodied Dante horror feature that did away with the jokes altogether . . .
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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