Michael Scott

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Screamers


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Movie: :4stars:
Video: :3.5stars:
Audio: :3.5stars:
Extras: :3stars:
Final Score: :3.5stars:



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Movie

One of the biggest reasons that I love Scream Factory (and Shout Factory) is that outside of rescuing already released catalog titles, they are really digging deep recently and pulling out those forgotten films that no one would ever think to bring to Blu-ray. Sure, the Hammer horror films are kind of obscure to modern audiences, but they are known cult films. It’s the LITERALLY forgotten films like Screamers that makes me appreciate their efforts. Movies that even actors themselves probably forgot that they were in. Screamers was a low budget sci-fi/horror film that was almost forgotten as quickly as it was release, languishing on home video in several crummy releases (Sony released it in 1998, but it wasn’t ever reprinted till SPE put out a new copy in 2014 and was crammed in several “triple packs” as well). Even though most sci-fi fans haven’t heard of the film, it SOMEHOW generated a DTV sequel in 2009 (which was awful by the way), and now has made it’s way to Blu-ray.

My personal opinion is that Screamers is an underrated bit of sci-fi cheese. No, it’s not a classic film like Starship Troopers, but it is a glorious bit of cheese and genuine science fiction that somehow manages to be really entertaining despite being a razor thin budget, and being written by the same guy who wrote Bachelor Party and the original Fright Night Part 2. The film’s got a post apocalyptic feel that was popular during the 80s and 90s, and most of the actors are no named nobodies of that era, with a beleaguered post Robocop Peter Weller raising the bar just a bit with his enthusiasm.

The year is 2078. Mankind has moved to the stars and the huge NEB corporation (there was ALWAYS an evil all powerful corporation in these movies) has found a POWERFUL energy source on Sirius 6B, and it has been a life saver to mankind. However, the mining of the ore was found to cause radiation sickness in the miners, so the survivors and miners banded together against the NEB goons and staged a protest. Refusing to let their cash cow go away, the NEB sent their private military goons in and started and all out war with the Alliance. Years later the war is still going, but it is winding down on Sirius 6B, as the Alliance had created robotic seeker/killer drones known as “screamers” to wipe out the ground troops of the NEB. When a NEB envoy arrives stating that the corporation wants a peace treaty, Sirius 6B commander Col. Joseph Henderson (Peter Weller) is a bit suspicious. However, peace is better than the hell that they’re in, so he agrees to go meet with the NEB commander.
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It’s not long before a crashed star cruiser confirms his gut feelings. This is all a ruse. The war has moved off of Sirius 6B, as there is a brand new source of this energy, and now the fighters on BOTH sides of the war left on Sirius have been left their to die. With nowhere else to go, and nothing else to lose, Henderson and a crack shot sniper named Ace Jefferson (Andrew Lauer) travel across screamer infested lands to find out the horrifying truth. There’s nothing left of the NEB forces either. The screamers have slaughtered everyone, and now it looks like their own masters are the next targets as they evolve past being simple mindless machines.

Screamers isn’t a wildly intelligent movie, but it’s a blast to watch. Director Christian Duguay weaves in a goodly element of horror to the sci-fi film, making the screamers absolutely terrifying by allowing us to NOT see them very well (part of that was due to the budget, but what you can’t see is almost scarier than what you CAN see at times). The shrieks and tense frights come from anticipating their arrival, and the near misses that occur. There’s some misses in the plot, especially with the cliched ending (we all saw the end reveal coming a mile away in my group watch of the film), but there’s some really smart elements as well. The decision to make them abandoned soldiers really resonated well with the bleak tone of the movie, and Peter Weller’s gruff and beleaguered style of acting fits in really well with a worn down base commander. It’s not just his acting chops though, as the extras reveal that he had a really big hand in the production and rewriting of the script that went on, infusing several key elements of the story into the re-writes and adding some great suggestions that really makes the movie. While it’s not a GREAT movie, Screamers doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves, and is one fun watch for a sci-fi fan like myself.




Rating:

Rated R for sci-fi violence and terror, some language and a brief moment of nudity




Video: :3.5stars:
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Scream Factory hasn’t released any information on a brand new transfer, so I’m guessing that they used an existing HD master of the film (of unknown age), and it definitely shows. The film looks to be in pretty good shape for a low budget 90s sci-fi film, but there is some noise and gunginess to the image for sure. Clarity is usually rather good, but underground when they’re trying to escape the screamers you see some thick grain, almost to the level of noise, and some smeariness associated with faces and panning effects. However, these are offset by some really great looking shots that are nothing short of fantastic. You’re able to see every pore on Peter Weller’s face in them, and the blue/gray color grading shows off plenty of details. Black levels are good, but never too great, and while I didn’t notice any major artifacting, there’s some distinct crush when they go underground and are in the bunkers. It’s a decent looking film, and LEAGUES better than the crummy old DVD, but the dated master isn’t as perfect as something that has been remastered by Shout/Scream Factory.





Audio: :3.5stars:
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Screamers features a fairly modest 2.0 track (even in 95 the budget was low enough not to warrant a 5.1 mix from the get go), and it does everything quite well. The shriek of the screamers as they shoot across the ground is high pitched and perfectly clear, while the blasts from the battle rifles makes an appropriate pop. The musical ambiance is solid enough, and the voices clear at all times, making it a very decent sounding 2.0 track. There’s even a couple of scenes that have some baked in LFE that actually shook the ground a bit (such as when they’re unlocking the escape pod). It’s a modest track, and while it’s not a big massive blockbuster mix, the 2.0 experience is more than adequate to do the job.






Extras: :3stars:
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• NEW Northern Frights – an interview with director Christian Duguay
• NEW Orchestrating the Future – an interview with producer Tom Berry
• NEW More Screamer Than Human – an interview with co-writer Miguel Tejada-Flores
• NEW From Runaway to Space – an interview with actress Jennifer Rubin
• Theatrical Trailer





Final Score: :3.5stars:


Screamers is one of those under rated sci-fi bombs that really is a hoot and a half to watch over 20 years later. It was shot on a shoestring budget, with only a small handful of actors, and utilized dated stop motion technology (even dated at the time) to create a hilariously cheesy cult film. I hadn’t seen Screamers since at least 97 or 98 (when the VHS came out I believe) and had one big blast revisiting this lost little cheesy gem. There’s horrible one liners, bad special effects, hammy acting, and that type of late night HBO movie vibe that is reminiscent of Starship Troopers, if Starship Troopers had ¼ the budget it did. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray is very solid, with decent video and good audio, and a whole host of brand new interviews int the extras category that actually has some really meaty conversations. Recommended for a fun watch.



Technical Specifications:

Starring: Peter Weller, Roy Dupuis, Jennifer Rubin, Andrew Lauer, Charles Edwin Powell, Michael Caloz, Ron White, Liliana Komorowska
Directed by: Christian Duguay
Written by: Phillip K. Dick (Short Story), Dan O'Bannon, Miguel Tejada-Flores
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH
Studio: Scream Factory
Rated: R
Runtime: 108 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: January 29th, 2019







Recommendation: Fun Watch

 
Last edited:

tripplej

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Thanks for the review. Will check it out once available on amazon prime/netflix. :)
 

Todd Anderson

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I can’t remember if I’ve seen this or not?!?!

On the list!
 
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