Screamers (1995)

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Screamers (1995)

Post  BoG on Sat Mar 13, 2010 9:46 pm

This one sure has a lot of backstory, hence, the long explanatory scrawl at the beginning (about twice as long as those famous scrawls in the Star Wars movies). The year is 2078 and there has been an on-going war between a corporation and the Alliance over a mining operation; it's a future version of the powerful executives vs. the labor union. The  corporation wants to continue mining a new material which solves the energy crisis, but the Alliance states that radiation makes it far too dangerous. The war has been confined to a single planet, the site of the mining; it used to be a beautiful world but has been made desolate by the war. The thing is, the focus of this film is not on the politics or ramifications of this war; all that has faded into the background by the point at which the story begins. No, the film is about the things of the title, which are advanced killer robots which have become way more advanced in the past year, evolving from simple cutting machines to robots which mimic humans. It's similar to the Terminator and The Matrix premises in that these machines were initiated in some underground facility but were left to their own self-replicating devices. Since they learn, they evolved way beyond what was intended.
Peter Weller (Robocop) stars as commander of an Alliance base. He unexpectedly receives a message about peace negotiations. However, a newly-arrived soldier (Andrew Lauer) informs him that the general who sent the hologram message died a couple of years ago, so this stuff about peace is probably bogus. Nevertheless, Weller sets out with the soldier to the enemy camp to discuss peace and get to the bottom of things, probably because he's sick of the war and guesses that the Alliance leaders have probably abandoned his post. They run across a little boy - but is he really a little boy? At the enemy base, they find out that one of these new 'Type 3' Screamers had wiped out all but three of the soldiers (Jennifer Rubin, Roy DuPuis & Charles Powell). The small group degenerates into paranoia because of these new Screamers, including the 'Type 2' wounded soldier model, which has limited vocabulary and repeats sentences.  It's pretty clever as far as nineties sci-fi pictures but may be too clever for its own good: it's not clear when some of the group were replaced by Screamers or if they were Screamers the whole time; if they were Screamers the whole time, why didn't they wipe out the human members earlier?  The pic is modestly budgeted but conveys a gritty atmosphere and has a fine, realistic central performance from Weller. BoG's Score: 7 out of 10
Screamer Trivia: based on a Philip K. Dick story, this had a modest budget of $20 million but was a bust at the box office, not making back half that money; it was released to festivals in '95 but actual release to theaters wasn't until 1996.
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