Midnight Movie Madness: bleak future and killer bots

“Screamers” – (1995, USA/Canada/Japan, 108 minutes – rated R)

On a mining colony called Sirius 6B in the late 21st century, the survivors of two warring factions may have to join forces to survive a new threat: self-replicating weapons evolving of their own accord since being “fielded” by one side. “Screamers” are scavenging robots produced in underground factories for the alliance, burrowing just below the surface until they launch themselves at their prey, their razor sharp blades whirring at a painfully high pitch sounding like a scream. Scary and gory stuff.

Watch the trailer here:

They then slice their target to pieces and drag the gruesome remains below ground.

Variety one

Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick and adapted by Dan O’Bannon (“Alien”, “return of the living dead”) and Miguel Tejada-Flores (“Screamers: the hunting”), “Screamers” remains very close to Dick’s original story “second variety”.

My, that’s a big gun

We begin with a message delivered by an NEB (new Economic Bloc) soldier on a suicide mission to the sole remaining Alliance HQ, headed by Colonel Hendricksson (Peter Weller).
In the short story, the action took place in France between the Soviet bloc and the UN, but this adaptation makes more sense.

Nasty variety three model

Both sides are exhausted by the 6 year war and Hendricksson is just about ready to toss in his hat, so disgusted is he by the devastation and political absurdities on both sides. His second in command brings him the message recovered from the dead NEB soldier, who got hacked to pieces by Screamers in front of the outpost. Alliance members have to wear ‘tags’, bracelets which conceal their vital signs from the Screamers, but there are indications that the tags are becoming less effective as screamers evolve in new versions and types.
Hendricksson decides to hike the few miles separating his HQ from the NEB’s forward base and negotiate a formal cessation of hostilities.
As in much of Philip K. Dick’s writing, the atmosphere is tinged with paranoia and the bunker scenes are properly claustrophobic. We know Hendricksson and the young jarhead who accompanies him are human, but everyone else is suspect.
Along the way he will encounter people from the NEB side as well as humanoid forms of screamers. “Screamers” is one of those sci-fi stories with a definite anti-war bent, certainly not scripted by say, John Milius.
The FX are decent, although with a budget estimated around $20 million, one might expect better than some obvious stop-motion and spotty CGI.

A proper double matinee could include “hardware”, another sci-fi/horror film from 1990, which did pretty well on an estimated $1.5 million, also about a self-regenerating military killer-bot.

“Hardware” trailer:

Hardware” had a similar claustrophobic feel as much of the action took place in an apartment, and for post-“terminator” movies, both films ain’t bad at all.
Screamers” gets three jellybeans.

3 beans

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2 Replies to “Midnight Movie Madness: bleak future and killer bots”

  1. Hmmmm? I remember seeing both of these…

    Not too bad either, but of the two, I’m thinking I liked “Hardware” better. That one had that wonderful story notion of trapping the agoraphobic main character in her grungy high tech apartment alone with the warbot while her cyborg scavenger boyfriend keeps trying to break in and save her…. Really small cast, and that great bit for Iggy pop as the radio personality…. Loved it! Think I’ve got the Region 2 DVD hanging around somewhere or other…. Now I wanna watch it all over again!

    1. I was drawn into the atmosphere of “hardware” a little more and part of that had to do with the soundtrack. There are very few adaptations of Philip K. Dick’s stories which I found watchable enough to actually own, but O’Bannon was himself a pretty good screenwriter I think, and Duguay (the director of ‘screamers’) went on to direct a nifty little thriller (‘the assignment’) a couple years later.
      So I actually like both better than ‘terminator’. Yes, I said it…! LOL.
      Speaking of adaptations, I’m working my way to a review of an H.P. Lovecraft story adapted by O’Bannon, which I have hopes for…

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