Film review: Screamers

Published: Friday, Feb. 2 1996 12:00 a.m. MST

Recipe for a "new" sci-fi horror movie:

Take a dollop of "Alien," a pinch of "The Thing" (1982 version), a dab of "The Terminator," a touch of "Dune" (or "Tremors") and throw in a few dozen other successful sci-fi/horror thrillers of the past decade-and-a-half for good measure, and — voila!

You have "Screamers."

Unfortunately, the resulting film might just as well have gone straight to video instead of movie-theater screens, since it is every bit as cheesy, underdeveloped and gore-filled as the tape-rentals that fill sci-fi/horror shelves monthly.

Peter Weller (best-known as "RoboCop") is the name draw here, as Col. Hendricksson, commander of a troop of soldiers for The Alliance.

They are stationed on a mining planet called Sirius 6B in the year 2078, and the colonel is determined to negotiate a peace treaty after a decade of savage warfare.

The plot has him receiving an offer to negotiate, so he heads out across the desolate, bombed-out, radiation-ridden frozen terrain to meet the enemy.

Hendricksson takes with him a young soldier (Andy Lauer), and they eventually stumble upon the enemy bunker they've been seeking, only to find that the populace has been wiped out, save three survivors, a pair of agitated (if not psychopathic) soldiers (Roy Dupuis, Charles Powell), and a cynical — but beautiful — black-market trader (Jennifer Rubin).

And ultimately, to paraphrase "Pogo," they discover that the real enemy is, of course, us.

Both sides have been double-crossed by their governments, and by the corporation that owns the mining rights to the planet. And they must both do battle with the title characters, small, mechanical search-and-destroy devices that burrow underground and attack any humans that come within range, slicing them up with rotary blades. ("The Sirius 6B Chainsaw Massacre"?)

Initially devised by The Alliance to deal with the enemy, these metal creatures have begun to replicate themselves with upgrades that their human creators never intended. The next stage up the food-chain creates little mini-dinosaur creatures, followed by Screamers that resemble a human child with a sad story to tell and finally, a wounded soldier.

By appealing to the humans' sense of humanity, the Screamers manage to gain entrance to their bunkers and wreak havoc. And the story gradually turns into a familiar tale — is it one of us, or is it a Screamer?

Unfortunately, the filmmakers have spent so much time and money on special effects, they forgot to flesh out the human characters. The result is that we don't much care about anyone here. And therefore, we don't much care about the movie.

"Screamers" is rated R for violence, gore, profanity, vulgarity and some brief female nudity.

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