Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I had gotten a hold of the movie ‘Screamers: The Hunting’, and the title was bugging me because I vaguely remember a movie from back in the day called ‘Screamers’ though I couldn’t remember, even slightly, what it was about.  Not surprisingly ‘Screamers: The Hunting’ is a Straight to DVD sequel to ‘Screamers’, a fourteen year old movie based on a Phillip K. Dick short story and a movie that somehow slipped past me in 1996 which is completely surprising to me since I generally don’t miss Sci-Fi flicks no matter how good or bad.  That is until I saw the release date.  January 26th 1996.  My wife was nine months pregnant and would give birth to our son in seven days.  I had just been laid off from my job a week earlier.  In two days the Dallas Cowboys would play the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super bowl 30.  Yep, there was stuff going on early in 1996 in the life of Armstead, particularly the fear that my son might be born on Super Bowl Sunday which would have left me with a very difficult decision.  Anyway I couldn’t very well watch that Straight to DVD sequel without watching the original now could I? 

The year is… uh, the future.  The Byranium wars between the engineers and the miners have dragged on and on with nary an end in sight, that is until a New Economic Block soldier makes a perilous trip to an Alliance bunker to deliver a critical message promising peace.  The reason this trip is so perilous is because the Alliance have developed a super weapon called Screamers which are mechanical sand dwelling swords which kill anything that moves.  These things are so deadly that the Alliance designed them, constructed an underground manufacturing facility for these things and then fearfully got the hell out of there allowing these things to construct themselves unmanned and unmonitored.  Why does that sound like a terrible plan to me?

Anyway, this soldier eventually gets sliced to bits but the peace offering is delivered to outpost commander Joe Hendricksson (Peter Weller) who has been fighting this war the majority of his adult life and would do anything to see it end.

Since the message requested a face to face meeting, Commander Hendricksson grabs marine grunt Ace Jefferson (Andrew Lauer), whose transport just crashed on this planet, and the pair cross the dangerous terrain to find peace. On foot. Because in this future there are spaceships but no cars, dune buggies, motorcycles or mopeds.

So our heroes begin this journey, armed with a special wristband that keeps the Screamers from attacking them when they stumble upon a small child. A child that’s been hiding out for a few years now which seems odd because a screamer probably should’ve sliced it to bits by now, especially considering this child possess no special Screamer repellent wristband. Oh well, lets just take that kid to the meeting too. Then our heroes find some survivors in another bunker who give them some critical information on how the Screamers have found a way to ‘evolve’. Not cool, especially since this evolution is T-1000-esque. Right about now it seems the war between the NEB and the Alliance has taken a back seat to war between humanity and the Screamers with the Screamers primed to kick ass and eat toast. And they’re all out of toast.

There’s a lot to like about ‘Screamers’ as director Christian Duguay paces his film pretty well, navigating safely out of an occasional slow spot here and there, with the best part of the movie being that star Peter Weller is cast picture perfect as the sardonic hero, seemingly able pull off these types of roles in his sleep. The narrative surrounding this movie is a good one and reasonably complex, though at times it does feel a bit derivative borrowing elements from The Terminator movies, The Thing and Aliens just to name a few Sci-Fi classics, but when you take into consideration that this was based off of a short story published in the early 1950’s and since this film is purported to be fairly faithful to original text then maybe those movies are derivative of this in some way.

There were problems with the movie, mainly the fact that it introduced a lot of stuff in the way of plot elements and then simply let them flounder. I don’t think the political issues taking place in this universe were explored enough considering how important the political atmosphere was to the story. There were other loose ends floating around such as the atomic bomb on the crashed ship or the real story behind the imprisoned chancellor. You are also forced to simply accept these walking talking completely cognizant robotic humans, curious as to how in the hell a glorified Roomba could, over the course of about twenty years, find a way to turn itself into a functional woman complete with a working vagina. That’s some technology for your ass right there. I would love some answers to these questions but alas they will not be forthcoming, and since I’ve seen the new film let me warn you that movie isn’t answering any of these questions either.

Nonetheless ‘Screamers’ was an entertaining piece of pure science fiction with a nicely told story strewn amidst some fine acting mixed with some extremely suspect special effects. Extremely suspect. Certainly worth revisiting if you haven’t seen it in a while.

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