Masters of Horror: Joe Dante – The Screwfly Solution – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Directed by
Joe Dante

Cast:
Jason Priestley … Alan
Kerry Norton … Anne
Linda Darlow … Bella
Brenna O’Brien … Amy
Court Young … Cameron
Elliott Gould … Barney


The Episode:

When looking at the premise for Joe Dante’s second Masters of Horror episode, “The Screwfly Solution,” it’s easy not to notice just how ambitious it is on paper. While films and television shows about the end of the world are pretty rampant lately – with I Am Legend due out at Christmas, 28 Weeks Later currently in cinemas, Planet Terror already out earlier this year, plus 2006’s Children of Men and the resurrection of Jericho on TV – you don’t have to very far to see the apocalypse. Thing is, most of those had a pretty hefty budget in order to pull off the destruction of the world’s population, as opposed to Dante’s installment, which had $2 million and a 10-day shooting schedule.

So with those limitations, how well does Dante orchestrate an hour of television that’s supposed to take place in several locations from Texas to northern Canada, in which a disease makes men start indiscriminately killing women? Well the answer is, while not a total home run, “The Screwfly Solution” is still a solid and very entertaining episode of Masters of Horror. With just a little bit of fine tuning, the episode could have been one of the best ones ever produced for the series.

The episode begins with a summary of the fate of the Screwfly, which was a parasitic organism that was eradicated in the United States in the 20th Century by altering their breeding habits. “The Screwfly Solution” deals with the same principle, only someone is doing the same to humans, treating us as if we were pests ready to be wiped off the face of the earth. Standing in the disease’s way are only a handful of scientists, including Alan and Barney (Jason Priestley and Elliott Gould), experts in deviations in the mating habits of different species, who are trying desperately to find a cure. As the situation worsens, Alan’s wife Anne (Kerry Norton) and daughter Amy (Brenna O’Brien) must flee to Canada in order to escape the wrath of the men around them and maybe even Alan himself. The second half of the episode deals with their desperate journey into the wilderness, trying to survive the coming onslaught, as society may or may not be devolving into nothingness.

What is really surprising about “The Screwfly Solution” is just how far Dante is able to ratchet up the tension. As an experienced director, Dante seems to know just how violence against women can really touch a nerve, and it is definitely one he’s able to hit over and over. One sequence in which a stripper is murdered is a harrowing piece of cruelty that will definitely make many audience members squeamish. Many of the other acts seem to happen off-screen, but are still very disturbing, as the after effects of the murders are sometimes hard to watch. It’s the violence that Dante allows you to see which makes the second half of the episode work as well as it does, and Anne must disguise herself to avoid possible brutality from surviving men.

The only problems that really arise are when certain elements seem tacked on, such as when Amy starts to rebel and wants to see her father, despite of the inherent situations surrounding them. This break from logic by this character seems to undermine the credibility of the story a bit, as its frustrating to see someone that would totally disregard how dangerous her situation could be. This is a problem that recently brought down another disaster epic (28 Weeks Later) and nearly does so here.

Overall though, “The Screwfly Solution” is a success due in most part to Dante and the excellent work from his cast, especially the venerable Elliot Gould. With scenes of intense violence and others of heartwarming compassion, Dante is able to do with a minimal budget what others have failed to do with much larger finances. As it was with his first episode, “Homecoming,” Dante may not have made a perfect installment, but he has made an entertaining one.


The DVD:

The Video
As it is with most Masters of Horror discs, “The Screwfly Solution” looks fantastic on this disc, shot in crystal clear digital video. The picture is quite good throughout, as and always seems to pop with color. The episode is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.

The Audio
The audio here is also quite nice. The audio balance with dialogue and soundtrack is also very good, with the action never drowning out dialogue. The Audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1.


SPECIAL FEATURES:

Commentary with Director Joe Dante and Screenwriter Sam Hamm – This is a terrific track with these two never really taking a break. We get background on the short story this episode was based on, as it was actually one that Dante has always wanted to film and was even going to be the first episode he directed, until a rights dispute forced him to make “Homecoming” instead. Again, this is a great track with a ton of info.

The Cinematic Solution – This featurette isn’t terribly long, but does throw a lot of stuff at you about the production and how difficult a shoot this was. There a section of the episode that I wish they could have done that is mentioned here. This is where a murder is witnessed and captured on a cell phone and shot as if it were on that phone. Dante abandoned the idea because of how difficult it would have been to make it look good, but I think it was an ingenious idea.

The Exterminators – This goes over a scene in which the culprits behind the disease are revealed. This is pretty interesting, but not earth shattering.

Trailers – You get a selection of trailers here for other Masters of Horror entries, as well as other Anchor Bay releases.

Joe Dante Bio

Still Gallery

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for
Masters of Horror: Joe Dante – The Screwfly Solution
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE EPISODE

7.5
THE VIDEO

8
THE AUDIO

8
THE EXTRAS

6
REPLAY VALUE

8
OVERALL
7.5
(NOT AN AVERAGE)