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  Screamers Weller Weller Weller Ooh Tell Me More Tell Me More
Year: 1995
Director: Christian Duguay
Stars: Peter Weller, Roy Dupuis, Jennifer Rubin, Andrew Lauer, Charles Edwin Powell, Ron White, Michael Caloz, Liliana Komorowska, Jason Cavalier, Leni Parker, Sylvain Massé, Bruce Boa, Tom Berry
Genre: Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: The year is 2078, and the place is Earth colony Sirius 6B which after mining there proved controversial thanks to the deadly pollution it spawned, has become a post-apocalyptic wasteland since the savage fighting that took place. The survivors against the mining corporation still remain in isolated outposts on the planet, but life is made difficult by the so-called “Screamers” which are murderous robots designed to burrow below the ground and leap out at their victims, cutting them to pieces in the process. But there may be more than one type of Screamer, as the leader of one of the rebel groups finds out: he is Captain Joe Henderson (Peter Weller), and he has recently discovered something important from a Screamer victim…

The stories of Philip K. Dick proved popular for science fiction filmmakers come the late twentieth century, ushered in by the newfound cult classic status of director Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, so by the time Screamers arrived, it was in the midst of a small flurry of activity around the author’s work. Some of those movies were bigger than others at the box office, and this was assuredly no Total Recall, another work with Dan O’Bannon script involvement, more something straight to video that had somehow escaped into cinemas, though its budget was leaning towards the medium range than the lower ends of the production spectrum. In the hands of director Christian Duguay, it was not the most accomplished science fiction adventure around.

But it did have a nice visual sense of the bleakness of its blasted setting, with some particularly fine shots of Weller and his co-stars against wintry landscapes or empty husks of cities as he makes his way to his destination, the location of a spaceship that can take him to Earth on a mission of much-needed peace. That was what the hapless victim at the beginning was carrying, and Henderson feels he must complete that errand, but as he does so, with naïve Ace Jefferson (Andrew Lauer) as his companion since the corporation requested two representatives for the ceasefire to be negotiated, and he becomes a longsuffering mentor for the younger man, explaining for him the dangers in the land that just happen to explain to us in the audience as well.

Handy, that. Anyway, the Screamers are still an issue, especially as there are different types that have been designed, possibly by their own mechanical minds for they are self-replicating, which leads us to the familiar Dick trope of questioning what is reality and what isn’t when the possibility arises that any one of the folks Henderson meets along the way could be a robot out to kill him in a surprise attack. Therein lies the tension, and it wasn’t a bad set-up, just a little uninspired in execution as if the spark of genuine imagination that the source contained had been ironed out to craft a more generic tale, one which had to employ the agreed amount of action and quasi-horror imagery the audience expected from big screen sci-fi by then.

You could very easily grumble that the full potential was not being reached, the potent degrees of the author’s drug and insanity fuelled flights of paranoid fantasy, though it remained true that it was difficult to adapt a Dick yarn without at least some of this influencing the end result. The film got closest to its most transgressive aspects when it staged a shootout against dozens of Screamers designed to look like little orphan boys: seeing the heroes mow down a plethora of child actors brought up unwelcome memories of real life school shootings, and didn’t play very well with that in mind, no matter that the villains were deceptive robots and not children at all. That troublesome sequence aside, Screamers plodded along dutifully, throwing in antagonists and a love interest for Weller in the shape of Jennifer Rubin, not an actress who ever made the high profile but some are glad to see her, and she didn’t embarrass herself here. No one did, really, it was competence all the way, yet with more inspiration it could have been a gem. Music by Normand Corbeil.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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