The Amazing Screw-On Head by Chris Prynoski (Review)

The world could always use some more goofily charming, historically irreverent sci-fi.
The Amazing Screw-On Head - Chris Prynoski

There are two sides to American history. There’s the boring side that’s been taught to you by history textbooks and schoolteachers. And then there’s the other side where, as it turns out, America is actually littered with ruins of ancient and alien civilizations (at least west of the Mississippi), where mad zombie scientists seek to overthrow the world, and where horrific demigods lay imprisoned within vegetables, patiently waiting to be freed from their parallel universe prisons to lay waste to Mankind.

The only bastion of defense against these horrors is Screw-On Head, a secret government operative at the beck and call of Abraham Lincoln (yes, that Abraham Lincoln), and who is, well, a screw-on head with an army of steampunk bodies at his disposal. And he’ll need them all, because the nefarious Emperor Zombie — once Screw-On Head’s closest friend and manservant before he began dabbling in ancient black magic — is seeking the power of an ancient kingdom to bring the world to its knees.

Not surprisingly, all of this comes from the imagination of Mike Mignola, best know for his work on Hellboy. Like Hellboy, the world of The Amazing Screw-On Head is populated with bizarre, otherworldly terrors, secret government agencies, strange beasties, and fantastic gadgets. Oh, and a machine gun-toting monkey.

Needless to say, the tone here is considerably goofier, as if Mignola decided to indulge all of his 5th grade fantasies. And so The Amazing Screw-On Head is full of bizarre, kooky, and over-the-top bits and pieces, from the titular protagonist — who was originally envisioned as an action figure — to the elaborately silly, Lovecraftian mythology to the diabolical-yet-hilarious villains.

Breathing life into all of this is perhaps the film’s biggest plus, the voice acting. Specifically, the voice acting of Paul Giamatti and David Hyde Pierce. Giamatti gives Screw-On Head the right balance of earnestness, patriotism, do-gooder-ness, and cluelessness. However, Pierce absolutely steals the show as Emperor Zombie, whether he’s smoking a scientist’s remains in a giant hookah, taunting Screw-On Head’s love life (Emperor Zombie was responsible for turning Screw-On Head’s one true love into an evil vampire), sucking up to an alien deity, or exclaiming “I’m so excited I just made water in my pantaloons!”

As of right now, only the pilot episode of The Amazing Screw-On Head has been produced. It was originally aired on-line on the Sci-Fi Channel’s website in order to gauge whether or not there’d be enough interest to merit creating an actual series. Here’s hoping that it actually happens (provided, of course, that the pilot’s voice cast signs on). The world could always use some more goofily charming, historically irreverent sci-fi.