Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Substitute

A group of scrappy tweens must figure out a way to expose and defeat their new substitute teacher, a space alien sent to Earth to study the children for nefarious purposes.

Not a bad movie, per se, but not a good one either, The Substitute is never boring but it never quite nails the playful horror/comedy tone it's going for. The film it most reminds me of is Rare Exports, which had a similar tonal problem. The goofy plot and cute kids suggests comedy, but the desaturated color palette and somber tone suggests a more serious horror movie. Neither part really works. It has a solid story structure, but it's nothing you haven't sen a million times before: the kids realize what's going on, the parents don't believe them, the story pussyfoots around for a while, and by the time the parents realize what's going on it's too late and the kids have to fight the alien themselves.

By far the best part of the film is the substitute, played by Paprika Steen (great name). She's evil, sure, totally lacking in empathy, but she's got a sense of humor about it and seems like she's having a good time. Humans are just so stupid and easy to manipulate, she can't help but be as overt as possible about what she's doing, practically begging for one of the adults to notice.

One truly awful bit of filmmaking: in the very beginning, a character is watching TV, where the father of the main character is being interviewed about his new book. The interviewer asks him a question that causes him to have a flashback about his wife's death. Only the flashback starts while we're still seeing the scene from the perspective of the person watching TV. Like, shouldn't we cut to the TV studio and close up on the father's face before going to the flashback? Instead it's almost as if the TV psychically sees his flashback. Weird.

Rating: C

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