Screamers is a 1995 dystopian science fiction horror film directed by Christian Duguay based on the short story Second Variety by Philip K. Dick. Screamers stars Peter Weller, Roy Dupuis, and Jennifer Rubin. It premiered at the 1995 Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 1995 and was released in the United States on January 26, 1996.
The New Economic Block (N.E.B.), a massive mining conglomerate, discovered a substance known as "berynium" whilst mining the planet Sirius 6B, a vast and flourishing colony supporting city-scale urban development, growth and commerce. Berynium was hailed as the solution for replacing mankind's dwindling energy resources, but the mining process was soon found to release massive amounts of pollution and lethal doses of radiation into the atmosphere.
Five years into the war, Alliance scientists created a weapon called the Autonomous Mobile Sword, or "screamer". The artificially intelligent screamers were subterranean, self-replicating, crawlers which target and locate a life-form by tracking its pulse. The screamers are equipped with a spinning saw blade designed to kill by "leaping" from the ground and dismembering the target. The screamers produce a loud, shrill sound, similar to a scream, while attacking, and thus were nicknamed "screamers". As screamers are unable to identify friend from foe, The Alliance scientists developed a wrist-worn electronic protection device called a "Tab". A Tab renders its wearer invisible by broadcasting the wearer's heartbeat and pulse out of rhythm, thereby preventing the screamers from "seeing" a target. According to an Alliance officer, Chuck Elbarak (Ron White), The Alliance would likely have lost the war without the continued presence of the screamers.
After a prolonged and brutal war, both Alliance and N.E.B. forces on Sirius 6B are exhausted, poorly supplied and desperately undermanned. As progress has stalled and morale has diminished on both sides, so have combat skirmishes between the opposing factions. After six months without encounter, a lone N.E.B. soldier is spotted approaching The Alliance command bunker. The Alliance guards witness the soldier being killed by a group of screamers, only to discover that he was carrying a message intended for The Alliance commander. The message requests an immediate cessation of hostilities between The Alliance and the N.E.B. and guarantees safe passage through N.E.B. territory for two Alliance officers in order to discuss the formation of a peace treaty. Hendricksson (Peter Weller), The Alliance's commanding officer on Sirius 6B, dissects a screamer destroyed by the dead N.E.B. soldier, discovering that its CPU is labeled "revised". This strikes Hendricksson as strange, as no revisions were ever made by The Alliance after the initial construction. As stated by Hendricksson, the Alliance scientists "just flipped the switch and ran".
Hendricksson later receives a communication from Alliance command on Earth, who inform him that the planet Triton 4 contains berynium which can be safely mined, and that negotiations were currently in progress with the N.E.B. administration regarding the find. Shortly thereafter, an Alliance troop transport vessel sent from Earth crashes near The Alliance bunker. The only surviving soldier, a sniper named "Ace" Jefferson (Andrew Lauer), informs Hendricksson that the message received from command was a lie and that war between The Alliance and N.E.B. was worse than ever and continuing on Triton 4, where the transport was destined. Hendricksson concludes that Alliance command had been lying to the Sirius 6B contingent for years, intent on simply abandoning them on the ruined planet.
The following morning, while approaching the N.E.B. base, David is shot by an N.E.B. soldier. Hendricksson and Jefferson are horrified to discover that David is yet another type of advanced screamer capable of interacting with — and impersonating — a human being. Two N.E.B. soldiers, Becker (Roy Dupuis) and Ross (Charles Powell), emerge from a ventilation tunnel to greet the pair and proceed to escort them into the bowels of the N.E.B. base. It is explained that the entire N.E.B. contingent was wiped out after their patrol teams had unwittingly brought screamers inside the base disguised, like David, as children, who had then killed off most of the N.E.B. remnants while they were eating dinner. The two N.E.B. soldiers and a female named Jessica (Jennifer Rubin), operating a black market trade operation from below the base, explain that the screamers have begun creating far more advanced and deadly types of screamer than previously encountered.
Despite protests from the N.E.B. soldiers, who insist that their colleagues are all dead, Hendricksson demands to be taken to the command center to reconnoiter the situation and locate the N.E.B. commander. The group use an underground network of sewerage and maintenance tunnels to enter the facility from below. Upon entering the N.E.B. base, they find only an empty building and many large pools of blood. Unfortunately, much of the still-working computers and electronic equipment are destroyed when Ross sees a 'reptile' screamer and in an hysterical panic, Ross fires his weapon at it, and the resulting explosion destroys most of the equipment. The group is ordered by Hendricksson to quickly retreat from the facility. Hendricksson, who stays behind to use a computer console to access information about the newly developed screamers by using the confiscated CPU chips taken from the destroyed models, discovering that the "reptile" model screamer is a 'type 1 revised' and the "David" model screamer was a 'type 3'. After escaping back to Jessica's hideout, Hendricksson questions Jessica, Ross and Becker regarding the 'missing' screamer. He is told by Ross that it is probably a 'type 2', while Becker tells him of a rarely seen model which impersonates a wounded soldier, killing those who come to its assistance. After a tense argument between the N.E.B. soldiers, Ross is then killed by Becker, who claims that his colleague was probably a screamer, due to his penchant for uttering the same phrase constantly when agitated. Upon closer inspection, however, Hendricksson informs the paranoid Becker that the blood on his blade tells him that Ross was entirely human.
As the senior Alliance officer on Sirius 6B, Hendricksson is aware that an emergency escape shuttle had been docked within a hidden port in a mountain before his arrival and intends to activate it and escape. Now quite paranoid, he cuts Jessica's hand in order to determine whether or not she is a screamer. The large gash bleeds, leading Hendricksson to assume that Jessica is human. Inside the hidden port, Hendricksson encounters a screamer that is wearing Chuck's face, the screamer admits to cutting the face off its former wearer. Hendricksson manages to kill it. Continuing to the craft, Hendricksson and Jessica arrive only to find that the shuttle can seat only one person. Hendricksson resolves to allow Jessica to escape in the shuttle, at which point an individual identical to Jessica greets them. Hendricksson realizes that Jessica is, in fact, a screamer and scrambles to enter the shuttle, pushing aside "his" Jessica. The two "Jessica" models begin to fight, with the first Jessica seemingly attempting to protect Hendricksson from the second. The second Jessica is eventually destroyed by the shuttle's engines as they conduct an automatic pre-flight burn. As the first Jessica model slowly dies from its injuries, Hendricksson informs her that screamers are "moving up in the world" because they now kill each other, just as humans do. With her dying breath, Jessica professes her love for Hendricksson.
En route to Earth, a teddy bear (the type carried by the type 3s) is shown to be aboard the shuttle with Hendricksson. It then begins to move, as if it is "alive", at which point the screen fades to black.
|Peter Weller||Colonel Joseph A. Hendricksson||Leader of The Alliance on Sirius 6B|
|Roy Dupuis||Becker||A screamer disguised as an NEB Soldier|
|Jennifer Rubin||Jessica Hansen||A screamer disguised as an NEB Soldier and black market merchant|
|Andrew Lauer||Ace Jefferson||Alliance soldier that crashes in a ship on Sirius 6B|
|Charles Powell||Ross||An NEB Soldier|
|Ron White||Chuck Elbarak|
|Michael Caloz||David||A Type 3 screamer that tags along with Hendricksson and Jefferson|
|Leni Parker||Corporal McDonald|
|Sylvain Massé||NEB Soldier||An NEB Soldier carrying a message to Alliance Command on Sirius 6B|
|Bruce Boa||Secretary Green||An administrator of The Alliance|
|Henry Ramer||Screamers Crawl Narration (voice)|
Autonomous Mobile Swords are machines created by The Alliance to defend themselves against the NEB. Nicknamed "Screamers" for the disorienting scream they let out before an attack.
Throughout the film, several types are introduced:
Other types that were not identified in the film are:
Roger Ebert gave the film a mildly positive review, awarding it a rating of two and a half stars (out of four). Ebert said the film was "made with a certain imagination and intelligence," "the dialogue is often effective," and "what makes the film somewhat intriguing is its Blade Runner-like ambiguity: who is, and who isn't, a human being.
James Berardinelli gave the film a positive review, awarding it a rating of three stars (out of four). Berardinelli said that the film "oozes atmosphere" and "underlines an important truth: you don't need a big budget or big-name stars to make this sort of motion picture succeed.
Time Out New York Film Guide gave the film a lukewarm review, criticizing director Christian Duguay's "flashy, aimless direction" and saying that the movie "lacks the intelligence to follow through its grim premise," but added that the film "does offer many [...] guilty pleasures" and "the design and effects teams have lent scale and impact to the futuristic locations and sets.
Rob Blackwelder of SplicedWire gave the film a negative review, saying that "Screamers is inundated with movie clichés, stock characters, stolen premises and scenes that just don't make sense.
|1996||Genie Awards||Best Achievement in Art Direction/Production Design||Perri|
|Best Achievement in Music - Original Score||Mormand Corbeil|
|Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role||Ron White|
Screamers has the following release dates: