Teaching Mrs. Tingle (1999)
The directorial debut from Scream scribe Kevin Williamson is in a dire identity crisis no marketers would want to handle. Is it trying to be a teen drama? Is it trying to be a thriller? Is it trying to be a comedy? Whatever it’s trying to be it most certainly isn’t entertaining. Maybe they should’ve tried that first.
Williamson, the man who made self reflective pop-culture references a career and the puppeteer over Dawson’s Creek, takes a stab at directing his own movie he wrote embittered over an unpleasant English teacher of his long ago. The normal sharp writing and wit found in most of Williamson’s trademark slash-and-dash-and-instant-cash pictures are completely absent in this outing and we are replaced with dull cardboard characters, predictable plotting, and poor direction.
The movie is bubbling over to the brim with every high school cliche you can think of. The characters aren’t even people, or even grossly overdone cartoons, they’re basically cut-outs of real people. It’s like every person phoned in a performance and had cut-outs stand in their places. Let’s see there’s the good girl hero who’s falsely accused (Katie Holmes), the good girl’s rival who kisses up to teacher (Liz Stauber), the bad boy without a cause that the good girl hates but just can’t help herself to fall in love with later (Barry Watson), and the good girl’s best friend who serves for the purpose of comic foil (Marisa Coughlan). Have we got everything covered? Okay, greenlight it!
One of the pleasant things in Tingle is Helen Mirren’s wonderful over-the-top performance as the misanthropic title villain. She shows how she can out-act anyone that dares vie for her creed. Though for the latter part of the movie she’s mainly reduced to clawing and hissing.
This effort comes off as a juvenile fantasy to exact revenge upon all those in the educational system that have ever done wrong. Notice that this same idea was used in last winter’s The Faculty to much better results. Ultimately when it comes down to, Teaching Mrs. Tingle has a few funny parts, mostly revolving around The Exorcist in some way, and a lot of predictably dull parts. Williamson doesn’t have the visual prowess to keep a career as a director, and the entire horror world has moved on from the post-irony movement he himself forged. While I do think there is a place for this man’s talent, I hope he sticks behind a typewriter more than a camera. Now what did we learn class?
Nate’s Grade: C