Retro Film Review: Screamers (1995)

in film •  2 months ago 


Great literature seldom gets adapted into great movies. In the world of science fiction Philip K. Dick was exception to that rule. Two pieces of his work were adapted into two extraordinary films - Blade Runner and *Total Recall. For a long time many
believed that Philip K. Dick's fiction guaranteed quality films. All that changed with Screamers, 1995 Canadian science fiction drama directed by Christian Duguay.

The plot takes place in 2087 AD. Sirius 67B is a distant planet rich in resources that could solve all of Earth's energy needs. Control over that planet was the issue that led to vicious war between Alliance and New Economic Block. In order to prevent enemy from overwhelming their positions, Alliance has equipped its garrison with screamers - killer-robots able to replicate themselves. After many years and war that turned the planet into completely desolate place, Colonel Hendrickson (played by Peter Weller), commander of small Alliance unit, receives armistice offer from decimated New Economic Block troops. Hendrickson agrees and leads small expedition towards enemy base. However, first he must cross no man's land infested with screamers. Lately those machines stopped making distinctions between friend and foe, but Hendrickson soon finds even more disturbing development. Screamers have evolved and started taking human form in order to get as close as possible to their targets.

The script for Screamers (based on Dick's 1952 short story Second Variety) was written by Dan O'Bannon, screenwriter well-respected for his previous work on such films like Dark Star or Alien. The beginning of film leaves impression of Screamers being in the same league with those genre classics. Christian Duguay manages to overcome budget constraints and uses wastelands of Quebec locations in order to paint very convincing picture of desolate world and world-weary protagonists unable to cope with technology that turned against their makers. Unfortunately, as soon as plot starts to accelerate, cliches become more and more numerous and the film starts looking like a cheap knock-off of late 1970s and early 1980s classics (Alien, The Thing) rather than original piece of work. All that escalates in finale that sacrifices last traces of plausibility and common sense for the sake of "surprise" twist that any experienced viewer could have predicted ages ago. Screamers can't be recommended for viewing, because those who like science fiction and works of Philip K. Dick should be spared from one big disappointment.

RATING: 2/10 (-)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on April 9th 2003)


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