Today I watched The Screwfly Solution, produced as part of the Masters of Horror series. There’s a plot breakdown at its Wiki entry, but in short, some sort of biological misfire crosswires lust with rage, and men start killing women en masse. Several characters try to figure out what’s going on and how to stop it before the human race kills itself off. This post will contain spoilers, so if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing…run away now. Or watch the hour-long movie on Netflix streaming.
Overall, I really liked it. It has some of the same shortcomings as War of the Worlds—namely mother-daughter bickering and the daughter being ridiculous while global catastrophe is occurring. Oh, the idiot teen daughter. I hate idiot teen daughters. I did some stupid things at that age, but I like to think I’d manage not to squabble with my mother while my father was trying to kill us.
I guess what struck me was the reaction, or lack thereof, from women. We go from “Men are killing women!” to…basically wholesale slaughter, and within a very short timeframe—I think it’s less than a year?—most of the women on the planet are gone. Do none of these women fight back? Toward the end of the movie, the female lead finally gets a gun, but only because her husband tells her to. Seriously? She even balks about it. I wanted to clock her.
The movie’s assumption (and I guess that of the book) is that women would just be completely overrun and wiped out. I raise my eyebrow at that.
The nearest thing I can compare it to is an outbreak of the living dead. No, stop laughing; think about it. It’s the same basic storyline—roughly half the population turns on the other half in what becomes a fast-moving epidemic. It invariably winds up spreading around the world. Humans never manage to defeat it; at best, entire countries are quarantined; at worst, the undead take over and the living eke out an existence in scattered camps and settlements. A return to civilized society won’t happen, and hell, the zombies may win in the end, but the living do fight back. They certainly last longer than a year.
You also have the same general problems in The Screwfly Solution and a zombie movie—namely people freezing up when their loved ones abruptly attack them, and thus winding up dead. That’s how the zombie plague spreads fastest; people can’t seem to put down their own. With that said, when the plague does become widespread, people do buck up and deal with it. People do learn to deal, even if it takes awhile.
Which is why I can’t quite wrap my head around how easily women are simply wiped out in The Screwfly Solution. Early on in the film, a character says “women nurture, men destroy,” which I guess I can maybe stretch into an analogy that women are not meant to fight back, or something. Yes, we lack the physical strength of males, for the most part, and that would end up killing plenty of women. But I think plenty more would come up with guns, swords, axes, and other ways to defend themselves and their children. None of the women in this film really did anything. They don’t try to defend themselves. They don’t try to band together. They sit there and take it. It would be one thing if some sort of counter-virus had been released along with whatever tweaked the males; something that wrecked women’s ability to defend themselves. But no.
The big reveal at the end is that aliens set it up. The aliens, by the way, look like a Na’vi warrior made sweet love to one of the light creatures from The Abyss. That’s not to say they aren’t very cool-looking—that’s just the only way I can describe them. The aliens decided they didn’t like humans and had us exterminate ourselves. Pretty neat trick, that.
The movie left me with mixed feelings. Much as I liked its good qualities, I have a serious aversion to…I guess all the stuff I bitched about above. It really, really bothered me, and frankly, I’m the target audience for apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic films. I love this stuff.
But I also love characters who decide to fight back. Even better if it’s against insurmountable odds. But I also like characters who take initiative for themselves—who don’t buy the gun while the world’s going to shit only because their husbands told them to, but who bought the gun because they saw the world going to shit and realized they needed to arm themselves.
Which is coincidentally what characters facing a zombie plague need to do—buck up and get some ammo.