Screamers (film)

Screamers (film)

Infobox Film
name = Screamers

caption = Theatrical release poster
director = Christian Duguay
producer = Franco Battista
Tom Berry
writer = Philip K. Dick (Short Story)
Dan O'Bannon
Miguel Tejada-Flores (screenplay)
starring = Peter Weller
Roy Dupuis
Jennifer Rubin
music = Normand Corbeil
cinematography = Rodney Gibbons
editing =
distributor = Columbia TriStar
released = January 26, 1996 retrieved February 10, 2007]
runtime = 108 min.
country = Canada / US / Japan
awards =
language = English
budget = $20 million retrieved February 10, 2007]
amg_id = 1:135768
imdb_id = 0114367

"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.


In the beginning

"Screamers" is set in the year 2078 on the planet Sirius 6B, a once thriving commercial hub and mining colony now reduced to a battle-torn wasteland by a prolonged war between the colony's miners and their former employers, the New Economic Block. The miners (or "The Alliance") created an army of self-constructing, artificially intelligent weapons called Autonomous Mobile Swords in an effort to gain the upper hand on their technologically and economically superior foe. These weapons were nicknamed the "screamers" by Alliance soldiers, due to the shrill screeching sound they emit as they attack.

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.

The war

Ten years after the discovery of berynium, a federation of the colony's miners and scientists began to organise opposition to the mining of the substance, demanding that further N.E.B. activities on the planet be halted to preserve the colony's safety. The N.E.B.'s response was to declare war against The Alliance and those supporting its activities. During the first decade of war, the N.E.B. launched a multitude of nuclear bombing strikes against Sirius 6B, devastating the planet and killing most of the population in the process. Although actual combat was confined to the colony, it is stated that a cold war of types began on Earth between Alliance supporters and the N.E.B. administration.

Five years into the war, Alliance scientists created a weapon called the Autonomous Mobile Sword, or "screamer". The artificially intelligent screamers were , 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.

Trek to the N.E.B. base

Furious at being betrayed by his superiors, Hendricksson begins his march towards the N.E.B. base to discuss negotiations with the enemy commander, accompanied by the combat-eager Jefferson. As the pair walk through the ruins of a war-ravaged city, they discover a young boy named David (Michael Caloz), clutching a teddy bear, and completely alone amongst the wreckage. David tells them that he had been living within the ruins, scavenging to survive. Hendricksson and Jefferson are baffled as to how David had managed to survive the nuclear war, the ensuing radiation exposure and the screamers for so long. Whilst camping for the night, the trio are attacked by what appears to be a newly modified type of screamer, unaffected by the Tabs worn by Hendricksson and Jefferson.

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.

Return to The Alliance bunker

Hendricksson offers Becker and Jessica protection with The Alliance forces, to which both agree. The group then return to The Alliance bunker, only to discover that type 3s have wiped out The Alliance contingent as well and are waiting in ambush for them. As dozens of type 3s pour out of the bunker's entrance, the group find their weaponry to be inadequate in the face of such odds. Hendricksson then fires a "Mini-Pluto", a type of miniature nuclear warhead stolen by Jefferson from Jessica's black market armory, into the bunker's entrance, obliterating the screamers and sending the group reeling from the resulting explosion. Becker appears to have been seriously injured in the blast, prompting Jefferson to rush to his aid. This is discovered to be a ruse, however, as Hendrickson recognizes Becker to be one of the new screamer variations discussed earlier by the group at the N.E.B. base. Jefferson realizes this only as Becker clasps him to his chest, crushing Jefferson's internal organs. After destroying Becker, Hendricksson determines escape to be the only logical choice, he then locates the only other remaining survivor, Jessica.

Escape from Sirius 6B

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.


List of Autonomous Mobile Swords (Screamers)

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:

*Type 1: These were the original "screamers" built by The Alliance. They can embed themselves in the sand and jump out to attack, slicing limbs and torsos in half.
*Type 1 Revised: Machines that still move through the sand, but are of a more sleek design, have small legs with which to walk around on other surfaces than sand, and can hack into computer terminals. Armed with a buzz saw blade on its head. (See first screenshot image above)
*Type 3: A small boy, wearing worn clothing and holding a teddy bear. Acts as an orphan and pleads to "come with you", seemingly to be led to more targets. Their faces can mutate into a more monstrous visage with razor-like teeth and have buzz saw blades embedded in their hands.

Other types that were not identified in the film are:

*The teddy bear usually found in the hand of a Type 3. (See second screenshot image above)
*A grown man, usually acting as a wounded soldier that cries for help. Seemingly not armed with weaponry, though they do possess a great deal of strength. One claims that it acquired its current face by cutting it off the former wearer.
*A grown woman, the most advanced and can even bleed, unlike the earlier versions. Strong, and seemingly able to produce a scream, the full effect of which is not shown before it gets destroyed, to possibly incapacitate or kill foes. Has the ability to love.


"Screamers" was filmed in the Canadian province of Quebec, in Montreal and its Olympic Stadium, as well as Joliette. retrieved February 10, 2007] It was filmed on 35 mm film with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. retrieved February 10, 2007]


Critical reaction to "Screamers" was negative. It currently holds a 28% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 39 reviews. [cite web |url= |title=Screamers |author=Rotten Tomatoes ]

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." [ [ Review by Roger Ebert] , Chicago Sun-Times, January 26, 1996]

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." [ [ Review by James Berardinelli] , ReelViews, 1996]

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." [ [ Time Out Film Guide Review] , Time Out, 1996]

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." [ [ Review by Rob Blackwelder] , SplicedWire, 1996]


Differences between "Screamers" and "Second Variety"

Although based on the short story "Second Variety", by Philip K. Dick, the basic ecophagy premise remains, there are several important differences between film and source story that make the film less pessimistic.
* The protagonist of "Screamers", Colonel Hendricksson, has a side-kick, the young, inexperienced Private Jefferson. His presence lightens the mood of the film's first half. In "Second Variety", the protagonist, Major Hendricks, travels alone.
* "Screamers" occurs in the distant, second-half of the 21st century; "Second Variety" occurs in the near future of the 1950s, the middle of the 20th century.
* The war in "Screamers" is fought between the Alliance and the New Economic Bloc over a natural resource. In "Second Variety", the Cold War degenerates to open war, between the UN and the Soviet Union.
* "Screamers" occurs on the planet Sirius 6b, one of many human-colonised planets, and the only planet where the screamers were launched. Thus, the screamers do not threaten the human race, as a whole, only the troops stationed on Sirius 6b. "Second Variety" occurs on Earth; there are no human space colonies, excepting a small, military moon base. Thus, the human race is at risk of extermination by the claws.
* In "Screamers", the "Jessica" screamer betrays the other screamers and helps Col. Hendricksson escape the planet. In "Second Variety", the "Tasso" screamer is loyal to the claws and escapes to the Moon Base in the rocket, stranding Hendricks on Earth.
* In "Second Variety", Hendricks has doomed the last humans by unwittingly sending a claw to the moon base. This is explicit when Hendricks grasps it in the end. In "Screamers", a screamer stowaway is aboard Hendricksson's escape rocket ship, but he is unaware of it; the human race's fate remains undecided.

Release dates

"Screamers" has the following release dates:
* 1995 Toronto International Film Festival — September 8, 1995
* Theatrical releases:
** USA — January 26, 1996
** Spain — April 25, 1996
** Portugal — May 24, 1996
** Poland — June 28, 1996
** UK — June 28, 1996
** France — July 10, 1996
** Hungary — July 18, 1996
** Germany — July 25, 1996
** Netherlands — August 1, 1996
** Japan — November 30, 1996
* DVD — July 29, 1998 [ retrieved February 20, 2007]


It was reported in 2007 that "Screamers 2" had begun production with Peter Weller returning as Colonel Hendricksson. "Screamers 2" fixes on a group of humans from earth, including Lt. Victoria Bronte, who arrive on Sirius 6-B to investigate an SOS signal sent out from the planet, which has been supposedly deserted since the destruction of the man-made weapons known as 'screamers.' Once the squad arrives, they find a group of human survivors eking out an existence in an old military outpost, but more important, they discover that the threat of the screamers has become even more insidious, now that they’re able to morph into human form." [ [ "Screamers 2"] , The Movie Blog, 2007]


External links

*imdb title|id=0114367|title=Screamers
*amg movie|id=1:135768|title=Screamers
*mojo title|id=screamers|title=Screamers

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