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Screamers (1995)

It’s funny how certain movies seem to disappear after a certain time. While some are played and replayed endlessly on various tv channels, some fade into obscurity, seemingly to never be seen or heard of again.

A few films I used to watch a lot in my teens fall into this category and I recently felt the urge to give one of them a re-watch despite it being easily 20 years since I last watched it.

Screamers (1995)

If you haven’t seen this one you can be forgiven. It was by no means a blockbuster. Nevertheless it’s a half decent sci-fi/horror/thriller starring Peter Weller (RoboCop), Andy Lauer (Iron Man 3) and Jennifer Rubin (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) and not many others.

This is what it’s about according to the internet:

“A military commander stationed off planet during an interplanetary war travels through the devastated landscape to negotiate a peace treaty, but discovers that the primitive robots they built to kill enemy combatants have gained sentience.”

I’ll be honest with you, this film didn’t quite live up to my memory of it. I always knew it was a kind of B-Movie but there was something I liked about it growing up. Having said that, once I got over the now-dated CGI and overall “low budget-ness” of the whole thing I settled into it and actually ended up really enjoying it.

The story itself is really good. Based on the short story “Second Variety” by Philip K. Dick (the writer behind the stories films like Blade Runner and Total Recall are adapted from) it had real potential, I just think the filmmakers lacked the vision and the budget to fully realise it. That’s not to say it’s not worth a watch though. The tense atmosphere and Peter Weller’s strong, commanding performance save what could otherwise have been an instantly forgettable movie.

The idea of a weapon created by man that then turns on its creator is one we’re all very familiar with, especially after all the Terminator movies we’ve been given over the years, not to mention the current worry over AI technology. This film does a great job of putting across the miserable situation the characters are in (fighting an un-winnable war on a depressingly desolate planet), I just wish the threat they all face had been made a little more…well, threatening.

There’s a constant ominous tone throughout the movie, and there’s definitely the odd creepy moment (“can I come with you?”), but by the end credits, this time around I found myself feeling like the film was missing that one horror moment that makes you appreciate just how big the threat actually is. All that said, I still like this movie. The story and Peter Weller’s performance are what makes it watchable, and as a sci-fi and horror fan I can certainly appreciate what it set out to do whether it fully achieved it or not.

A direct-to-DVD sequel called Screamers: The Hunting was released in 2009 but I haven’t seen it. All I know is that it stars Lance Henriksen (Aliens) and only has a 4.7/10 rating on IMDb. If you’ve seen it, let me know if it’s worth a watch.

If you asked AI technology to make you a movie and gave it films like Tremors (1990), The Terminator (1984) and Pitch Black (2000) as it’s blueprint I think you’d get something that looked a lot like Screamers.

If I haven’t put you off watching it (and I hope I haven’t) you can rent it on Amazon Prime for £3.49.

Seen it? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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