Screamers: The Hunting (DVD)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Lance Henriksen, Gina Holden, Greg Bryk, Tim Rozon
Directed by Sheldon Wilson
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
When it was first announced that a sequel to the 1995 science fiction film Screamers (based loosely on a Philip K. Dick short story) was on the way to DVD shelves my immediate reaction was something along the lines of, "Really? Screamers? Why?" I realize these made-for-DVD sequels to theatrically released films have become all the rage, but I wasn't aware Screamers was all that popular to warrant a follow-up. I saw the film in theaters when it opened and came away thinking it was an alright flick, nothing special though. Now that I've seen Screamers: The Hunting my burning question has shifted from "Why?" to "When?” as in "So when will this sequel be premiering on the Sci-Fi Channel where it rightfully belongs?"
Set thirteen years later, the doomed crew on its way to the planet crawling with little killer robots conveniently consult with a holographic plot recapping view screen in the opening minutes to refresh our memories as to the events of the original film. Long story short: Earth needed a new fuel source, one was found on a planet called Sirius 6B, civil war eventually broke about between the miners and those in charge, these killer buzzsaws-in-the-sand droids called "screamers" were developed as part of the war until they became sentient and killed everyone, and the Peter Weller character from the original we're now told committed suicide by blowing up his ship in orbit as it reentered Earth's atmosphere.
Someone on Sirius 6B has sent out a distress signal even though nobody is believed to have set foot on planet in the thirteen years since the events of the previous film. A military rescue team is being sent in to look for survivors and they have to get the job done in less than a week because there's a massive solar storm heading for the planet that will annihilate all life forms.
The rescue team is of The Hills Have Eyes 2 National Guard variety. That remake sequel stocked its cast with unconvincing, inept soldiers played by photogenic young actors of roughly the same age all boasting bland personalities and that's precisely what we get with this sorry lot of stock characters. There's nobody in this cast with the gravitas of a Peter Weller either. The team leader is the same young woman who played Dale Arden on the Sci-Fi Channel's god awful "Flash Gordon" series and she hardly looks like someone who should be leading a military operation. The script does her no favors either. It'll actually have her sneak off in a cave with the hunkiest member of the survivors found on Sirius 6B she's known for all of five minutes for a quickie just to set-up the lame twist ending later on. The rest of the soldiers aren't portrayed as being too bright either. These "tabs" are the only things that keep the screamers from automatically deeming a person a threat and attacking; so naturally, certain characters keep misplacing their tabs.
Don't even get me started on the script. They've basically recycled the first film but dumbed it and dulled it down considerably, doing away with the paranoia and sense of desolation that gave the original some spark in favor of logic gaps and tedious predictability. Heck, if you've seen Aliens then you've already seen this film done better; they even recycle the subplot with a member of the rescue team plotting to illegally smuggle a screamer back to Earth for research and development. So formulaic is the storytelling don't be surprised if you find your interest waning rapidly - mine sure did. Character development and back-story is almost non-existent; what few twists the story takes you should see coming from a mile away. I couldn't help shake the feeling that this is yet another case of the producers dictating what the script should be to the writer and doing so with little interest for the property outside of using it to make a quick buck.
Speaking of making quick bucks, Lance Henriksen collects an easy paycheck appearing just long enough to provide some life-saving exposition before losing his own in quite an unceremonious fashion. Hey, it's a living.
The best that can be said for "Screamers: The Sci-Fi Channeling" is that most of the production values and make-up effects are top notch for a direct-to-DVD production. The humanoid screamers are quite chilling in their appearance; far more effective than the typical screamers that make loud noises and kick up copious amounts of sand. Somebody obviously spent some money on the production. Too bad they didn't put as much work into crafting the screenplay. A good-looking film, but still as unimaginative as it is unintelligent, offering little in terms of thrills or chills.
I did find myself pondering one final question. If the screamers are capable of evolving, capable of building more sophisticated versions of itself, capable of building screamers that look and act like humans, don't you think by now they'd have managed to find a way to pilot a starship on their own by now?
1 1/2 out of 5
1 1/2 out of 5
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