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The year is 2078.The man is rebel Alliance Commander Col. Joseph Hendricksson (Peter Weller, RoboCop, 1987), assigned to protect the Sirius 6B outpost from ravage and plunder at the hands of the New Economic Bloc. His state-of-the-art weaponry is known as Screamers: man-made killing devices programmed to eliminate all enemy life forms. Screamers travel underground, their intent to kill announced by ear-piercing shrieks.They dissect their victims with precision, then eradicate all traces of the carnage. They are lethal. Effective. Tidy. And, somehow, they are mutating and self-replicating into human form and slaughtering every beating heart on the planet.
Despite the obvious, superficial similarities to movies like Aliens or the 1982 version of The Thing, this sci-fi/horror thriller is definitely aiming for something more profound. The story is set in the distant future on a colonized mining planet. The planet has been caught in a civil war for years, the population of both sides reduced to living in bunkers in a constant state of siege. When they realize that Earth has betrayed both sides and is uninterested in resolving the conflict, the leader of one side (Peter Weller) decides to set out across no-man's land to negotiate peace with the other side. He takes with him a green recruit (Andy Lauer) and picks up a war orphan along the way. Unfortunately, both sides have been relying on Screamers-automated killer robots that can adopt human forms as disguises-that are now out of control and out to kill all humans, no matter which side they're on. This leads to paranoia and uncertainty about who's really human when Weller's band meets up with the few survivors in the enemy camp (Jennifer Rubin and Roy Dupuis). Written by veteran Hollywood science fiction screenwriter Dan O'Bannon and Canadian Miguel Tejada-Flores and directed by Christian Duguay, it's based on the story "Second Variety" by writer Philip K. Dick. --D.K. Latta
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Philip K. Dick has been adapted before. Movies like Blade Runner [Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?], Total Recall [We Can Remember It For You Wholesale], and in summer 2002 The Minority Report [same title] have thrilled audiences while not remaining entirely faithful to Dick's ideas [especially Total Recall, in which Paul Verhoven took huge liberties]. Screamers holds to the idea, but not the setting, of Dick's story. To understand this story you must understand the context and what was on Dick's mind: The US and USSR [keep in mind the time of writing] have finally done it. They have finally blown each other up, and the remnants on earth fight it out in a style reminiscent of WWI. The US develops mechanized standoff weapons called Claws [the Screamers of the movie] which kill in an indiscriminate fashion. US troops are protected by wrist bands which ward off the Claws. Because the Claws are built in wholly mechanized factories, Dick takes them to another level - that of designing new weapons of their own. The obvious happens: US and Soviet armies alike are now targets. The clever, signature Philip K. Dick twist comes when the protagonist of the story finally recognizes the fact that these mechanized killing machines, just as we humans, have developed the means to start killing each other. What irony.
This movie's telling is small, yes, and it is low budget. The story does not need glitz and special effects. The story, in order to be understood, requires perspective and a recognition of what is actually being examined. Human folly is the tale here, and it is fairly well told. Enjoy this story.
When the robots reach that human-like point of development, they no longer simply focus on breeding and staying alive as a collective race. Now the ROBOTS start slaying each other for reasons that humans find all to understandable - love and personal desire.
Yes, there's the tension as you keep thinking "what will the NEXT robot look like". You begin to examine the actions of each character, wondering if he or she is a robot too. The line between "real human" and "mechanical device" becomes blurred. At one point Hendricksson grabs Jessica's hand and slices it open on purpose, to see if she really is human or a robot. She bleeds, and he apologizes profusely - leading to them falling in love. But of course the blood was fake - this was merely the next evolution in the robot progression. And it brings to mind the classic line, "If you prick us, do we not bleed?" (Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene 1). Given the large number of other Shakespeare quotes in the movie, the symbolism was quite apt.
It was impressive that Hendricksson treats the people around him with casual disregard many times - but the robots are showing emotions. The humans are often brusque and untalkative - but the robots make insightful comments drawing from Shakespeare and other great thinkers.Read more ›
Based on Philip K. Dick's short story Second Variety, this story plays on the theme of what is real. A mining colony on Sirius 6B went on strike because of radiation released by the mining operations. The company did not like that and the two have been at war for ten years. The miners managed to survive by creating screamers, underground flying buzz saws. Now the company wants peace. Both sides have found out that the war is a lie and want to band together. The trouble is the screamers have an automatic production facility and it has started turning out new versions.
Properly advertised this could have been a pretty big film, but it wasn't. Instead it was lost in obscurity. But if you like Philip K. Dick, the man behind Total Recall and Blade Runner, then you will get a kick out of this movie (and all of the surprise twists in the plot).
If you guessed _Total Recall_, you're correct, but it's not the one I had in mind.
This one is nothing like _Total Recall_ (which was an excellent movie but wandered far -- or did it? think twice -- from Dick's 'We Can Remember It For You Wholesale'). The story here is straightforward and doesn't involve any questioning of the nature of reality -- though it does, at least obliquely, question the nature of the relationship between humans and machines.
Peter Weller (_Robocop_) is the big cahuna here, and he does an excellent job as the morose, taciturn, tough-as-nails, just barely likeable 'hero' of the piece. The situation: there's some sort of corporate war on, and there's a mining colony, and there's some disinformation, and there's a possibility none of the fine folks that work the mines will ever get home again. (The film is based loosely on Dick's 'Second Variety' but doesn't follow it in detail at all; for one thing, the story was set on Earth.)
And there are the Screamers.
I can't tell you much about them without spoiling the movie for you. I guess I can let you know that they are machines and that they are evolving. Beyond that . . . well, watch and see.
This is a gritty, taut movie, and it's mostly well executed. The cast do a fine job -- especially Roy Dupuis but also that kid who used to rollerblade around on _Caroline In The City_. Some of the tension is artificial but the plot keeps on developing to the very last moment of the film.
It's not great, but it's good. And in its way it's a faithful adaptation of the spirit of Dick's story, despite its major liberties with the details.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
An excellent film that i have watched many times. I hope it comes out on widesceen.Published 6 months ago by Ed D. Ryan
I only saw half of this movie so um i will try to be perfect.
At first,I thought it would be real dumb belive me I say that alot.anyway...... Read more
THE STORY: Based on Philip Dick's short story, SCREAMERS plot becomes very convoluted at times, and I found myself wondering just what the heck was going on; however, as the movie... Read morePublished on March 9 2004 by Michael Butts
Peter Weller is one of those actors you either love or hate. I know my opinions about him vary widely depending on which film I see him in. Read morePublished on Jan. 22 2004 by Jeffrey Leach
What i like about this movie is that it is what it would be like in the future except for the screamers of course. Read morePublished on Dec 2 2003 by Replicators@excite.com
When I saw this (in the cinema) about 6 years ago, I had never actually been frightened by a movie before. Read morePublished on Oct. 27 2003 by L. Blain
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