Engaging and just so fucking immersive, Screamers is simply a science fiction masterpiece. A masterpiece that even has loads of action, I mean, what more to want from a movie? I fell in love with it as soon as it came out and that love is still strong. That gloomy setting on a distant planet full of dangers just fucking got me. I got my first glimpse of the science fiction escapism that I would come to love so much in the following years. The screenplay, written by Dan O’Bannon with a rewrite by Miguel Tejada-Flores, is based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “Second Variety”. The same Dan O’Bannon who wrote Alien and motherfucking Total Recall!
With a distinctly European science fiction look, Screamers is not an action science-fiction movie like Starship Troopers, released two years later. However, that doesn’t mean there’s no action because there’s plenty. It’s just that the focus is on the story, characters, and that sweet, sweet atmosphere. They took the time to show us how it would really be in the future and how different would our lives be. That atmosphere just sucks you in. It’s both post-apocalyptic and dystopian in nature. Granted, all this feels a bit raw and bland, as it’s happening so far away with characters that are not that likable. So, I understand why some might find the whole thing a bit of a bore.
Welcome to the world of tomorrow! It is the year of our Lord Satan 2078 and times are tough on a distant planet Sirius 6B. Once a prosperous mining colony is now a bleak and desolate wasteland after nuclear bombing raids. The opposing sides have no intention of stopping the war despite the fact that there are fewer and fewer survivors on the planet. One of them is Joe Hendricksson, a commander of Alliance forces who just received a message that could change everything.
I just love movies set on distant planets! There’s something so comforting and exciting about leaving Earth behind that I can’t describe with words. Mind you, the original story was taking place on Earth, so thank you Dan for changing that. It’s a perfect example of how you can refresh something without altering its core. Screamers, as its title suggests, is a movie about these nasty little robots that are able to burrow through the ground in order to kill their target. This creates tension any time any of the characters are not walking on concrete. Sort of a Tremors thing going on.
The production values are quite good for a $14 million budget complete with believable CGI. I don’t know how they made those stunning vistas of abandoned futuristic mines but they are simply captivating. So, visually, this movie definitely stood the test of time. I also loved how everything looks worn down and used. It adds to the sense of authenticity, much like in the original Alien. The same goes for the characters we’re going to meet. Joe really looks like that weary soldier who has seen it all. All thanks to Peter Weller who already gave a couple of impressive performances in cult science fiction movies like RoboCop and Naked Lunch. Roy Dupuis sporting one stylish pair of sunglasses and Jennifer Rubin as Jessica Hanson were also great.
Screamers open with one hell of a scene, perfectly setting the mood for what’s about to follow. And I just loved that everybody had such a good explanation for smoking all the time. Not like in some other science fiction movies where people would smoke inside the cockpit of a spaceship. Yes, I’m looking at you Moon 44. Finally, I just have to say how fucked up and nasty the killer robots look. Mechanical, ruthless, and highly effective, these killing machines would strike terror into the heart of the bravest of men.
Director: Christian Duguay
Writers: Philip K. Dick, Dan O’Bannon, Miguel Tejada-Flores
Cast: Peter Weller, Roy Dupuis, Jennifer Rubin, Andrew Lauer, Charles Edwin Powell
Fun Facts: The strange chessboard in the opening scene is the “Game of Ur,” a game from ancient Mesopotamia. The game is still played in Iraq to this day.