'Screamers' (1995) - Sci-Fi Movie Review
On paper, Screamers looked like a very interesting project. First of all, you got Dan O'Bannon (Alien's writer) adapting Philip K. Dick’s short story "Second Variety". The relatively new director, Christian Duguay, came from two TV film Scanners sequels that, although unnecessary, showed that his heart was in the right sci-fi place. In addition, Peter Weller, with great momentum after two Robocops and Naked Lunch, would be the protagonist.
The story was set in the year 2078, on the planet Sirius 6B, where a corporate war turned a rich mining hub into a toxic wasteland. The two factions are the mining company called New Economic Bloc (NEB) and The Alliance, an organization made up of former workers and mining scientists.
The absurd war has not only destroyed the planet, but has forced the two factions into a stalemate, since both are practically bankrupt. Unfortunately, the war zone is full of Autonomous Mobile Swords, artificially intelligent self-replicating machines designed by the Alliance to hunt and kill soldiers of the NEB. These machines are called "Screamers" because of the horrendous screech they emit when attacking.
After a couple of strange incidents and suspicious messages from their superiors on planet Earth, the commanding officer of the Alliance, Joe Hendricksson (Peter Weller) is convinced that they have been abandoned in their conflict. The elites on planet Earth, faced with the complicated situation, have decided to abandon all operations in Sirius 6B, leaving both factions to their own fate.
Hendricksson decides that his only option is to make a small journey to the other side, with the hope of achieving a truce with the NEB. Of course, the excursion will be constantly besieged by the Screamers, who, plot twist, have evolved in the most lethal ways possible.
Unfortunately, Screamers failed to meet the expectations of either the public or the critics. It didn't manage to collect even 20% of its budget and the reviews were mostly negative.
There are several elements that probably played against this movie. The original Dick story was set in a futuristic context of the Cold War, with the United Nations and the Soviet Union devastating the planet and being the cause of the whole plot.
The film version, made in 1995, several years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, replaces the interesting political context with a boring and uninteresting struggle between a mining company and a rebel group of former workers and scientists.
What's Your Rating For Screamers?
The film doesn't have great character development either. There are too many predictable twists and an ending that is supposed to be scary but really is some great piece of unintentional comedy.
The best thing about Screamers, though, besides the music lover, weird-badass Peter Weller character, are its small details, like the VR porn scored with heavy metal or the low-budget Android extras that attract genuine laughter by the cute-but-not -enough Art Department's effort.
Because certainly, the special effects felt too cheap and low quality in its premiere. But it has been that same sensation of having solved a complicated alternate futuristic universe with a moderate budget which has given Screamers a second wind.
In recent years, Screamers has become a modest cult movie, to the point of inspiring a 2009 sequel called Screamers: The Hunting. And although the sequel was quite mediocre, the creators of the original one can feel reassured that their work finally got its place in the history of the genre. I probably rated it one star to high, because of nostalgia.
Release Year: 1995
Director(s): Christian Duguay
Writers: Philip K. Dick ("Second Variety"), Dan O'Bannon
Actors: Peter Weller, Roy Dupuis, Jennifer Rubin a.o.