You can almost see the final drops being siphoned out of Scream and Dawson's Creek creator Kevin Williamson's creative well in Teaching Mrs. Tingle, his directorial debut. The nadir comes about halfway through, when Marisa Coughlan launches into a seemingly endless one-woman re-creation of The Exorcist, snarling and contorting like an unpromising participant in a sorority talent contest. Never have Williamson's trademark high-school angst and self-conscious horror-movie references seemed like such an iffy proposition. Directed with all the flair of a direct-to-video thriller and replete with the sort of underdeveloped characters usually found in first screenplays—Tingle is apparently one of Williamson's earlier efforts—the film stars Dawson's Creek favorite Katie Holmes as a good student from the wrong side of the tracks. Set in the sort of small town in which everyone speaks of leaving as if explosive brain implants kept them in place, Tingle presents Holmes with a dilemma familiar to high-schoolers across the land: When a C in history and an overblown scandal stand in the way of a scholarship, she and a pair of friends (hunky/bland Barry Watson and sexy/shrill Coughlan) exercise their only apparent option, holding the titular cronish history teacher (Helen Mirren) hostage until the situation blows over. Not sure if it's supposed to be a psychological thriller, a black comedy, or a lighthearted romp, Tingle tries unsuccessfully to be all three, changing tone with the frequency of a misguided high-school production of a play that wasn't particularly good to begin with. Mirren, to her credit, attempts to give her scenes the gravity and focus Williamson ignores throughout, but there's no rising above the mediocre, unrelentingly boring material. Michael McKean and Jeffrey Tambor fill out the ranks of the overqualified; a distressed-looking Molly Ringwald does not. Williamson has done fine work (Scream, the underrated The Faculty) in collaboration with others in the past, but if this is the best he can do on his own, he should consider pursuing more joint projects.

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