Inspired by the mind that conjured up the likes of Blade Runner and Total Recall, penned by the writer who gave us Alien, and starring none other than Robocop himself, Screamers certainly brings top-notch credentials to the table.

And that is probably why the whole thing left me feeling somewhat ‘ho-hum’ and underwhelmed – there is nothing seriously wrong with it, it is just you constantly have that nagging feeling that it should be better.

The plot is classic sci-fi material – with talk of distant planets and mining colonies there is a real air of familiarity, and the desolate landscapes and grimy sets hardly push the boundaries of the genre.

But that does not have to be a bad thing – if handled well.

Peter Weller (yep, Murphy himself) plays Joe Hendricksson, a grizzled, war-weary veteran holed up on planet Sirius 6B in 2078.

Seems there has been a civil war of sorts between Hendricksson’s Alliance and the ruling power, the New Economic Bloc (orNEB).

That war has dragged on for a decade or s o, leaving both sides out on their feet, with nowhere to go.

Into that mix are thrown the Screamers, small robotic killing machines which were designed by the Alliance to swing the war their way.

Wouldn’t you know though, as the war takes its toll these Screamers evolve on their own, to the extent that they are able to replicate life forms and seem intent on wiping out every human on the planet.

Suddenly the warring factions must put aside their differences in a desperate bid for survival, but who can you trust when the person next to you could be a Screamer?

There are definite echoes of previous classics like The Thing, Blade Runner, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and other Philip K Dick fare such as Imposter here.

And truth be told, the scenes involving the Screamers in human form are very entertaining – a shootout involving an army of cloned children being a particular standout.

But a lot of the running time really drags, with clunky dialogue and some ropey effects.

Dan O’Bannon’s screenplay tries oh-so hard to be gritty and real, clearly looking for that Nostromo factor again, but it winds up just being dull.

Weller does exactly what you would expect of him, with solid support from Jennifer Rubin, but others among the cast provide strictly straight-to-DVD turns.

For director Christian Duguay this was one of his brushes with ‘almost’ making it – helming the Wesley Snipes actioner Art of War being his only other major release as far as I can remember.

Oh and one other thing – in case you are wondering where the ‘Screamers’ element comes from, it is from the high-pitched whine these robots make when flying through the air – a noise that will have you rapidly lunging for the volume levels during a handful of scenes.

For some reason that I truly cannot understand, a sequel to this (Screamers 2: The Hunting) surfaced in 2009 – although I have not met anyone who has seen it.

For, despite having everything in place, Screamers overpromises and under-delivers – making it a passable, rather than essential, watch.

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.