Screamers (1995) – By David Stephenson

 I remember a time when things were going well for me. Life was good – the sun was shining, the birds were singing, a big ol’ smile tore its way across my pale Limey face, and all was well with the world. It was like I’d gone to sleep and woken up in the middle of a Disney adventure or something. So imagine my utter dread and anguish when Duane gets on my case about reviewing a movie about robots, or whatever the hell he was on about. You see, people don’t like robots – they’re dumb, stupid, and look like crap. That’s why no-one in their right mind ever makes movies about them. While more recent examples such as Terminator and I, Robot try to break the mould, finding a b-movie about robots that doesn’t bring bile to the back of your throat is like finding an ice diver who’s not keen on the cold. And things were going so well…

So, presumably in some kind of alcohol-induced haze, I find myself with a copy of Screamers in my hand. This, for all ye fortunate, ignorant souls out there, is 1hr 45mins of cinematic tripe featuring Peter “I was in Robocop” Weller. But let’s not be negative – every movie has its good points, right? Let’s see. While Weller isn’t exactly an acting phenomenon, (he may well be the worst actor to walk the Earth,) I was pleasantly surprised by the range shown here, as Mr Charisma delivers arguably his best ever performance – an epic in which he delivers two – count them TWO emotions. For a man who made his name dressed in a tin suit, that’s some pretty impressive stuff. Watch in awe as he delivers both shouting and boredom in quick succession, only to follow it up with occasional bouts of dazed confusion. This truly is the cinematic art form at its very best… Another good point? Well, it was refreshing to see a sci-fi type movie that wasn’t flooded with cheesy product placement (presumably because no bugger’d sponsor the damn thing.) And that’s about it; try as I may, that’s the only good I can find about this… this… thing. Some readers may take me as being overly negative. These are readers who have never had to endure this movie.

Surrounding Robocop are a host of acting school drop outs who shouldn’t be allowed out in public, let alone on the screens of a nation. The delivery here ranges from borderline average to the kind of humiliating shite that would normally carry a government health warning. Want an example? That’s fine by me. Up first is Roy Dupuis, who has also featured in such cinematic classics as (and I quote) “How to make love to a negro without getting tired,” which was described as being “the biggest disappointment from Quebec in its recent film history.” You can look that one up on IMDB if you don’t believe me. Roy gives the best performance in the whole film, delivering a sort of rugged, borderline psychotic type who walks around like a burned-out Kurt Russel proving to the world what a badass he is. You can tell he’s a hardcase because he doesn’t shave. Also up to bat is Jennifer Rubin, who brought us such cinematic legends as “Plump Fiction” – she provides the love interest for this movie, in a scene where Robocop and her don’t let a mere technicality like being surrounded by the dismembered corpses of their friends stop them from getting it on. Not that there was much choice mind you – she’s the only female in the movie to get any lines.

The plot? Actually by far the movie’s strongest point – written by Phil Dick who penned sci-fi hits Total Recall and Blade Runner, this movie could have been a masterpiece of suspense, tension and memorable special effects had it fallen into the right hands. Oh how cruel fate can be. The story involves two warring factions blowing each other up on a planet called Sirius 6B. (Everyone needs a hobby I guess.) Robocop’s side have created a dastardly and sinister race of evolving robots called Screamers to wipe out the enemy – special effects borrowed straight from Tremors ensue, along with a healthy selection of rubber body parts. The Screamer’s evolution into an unleashed killing entity driven to the extermination of mankind leaves only our humbled cast surprised. It is also worth noting that despite the sea of unintentionally hilarious violence and sliced human bodies, there is not one drop of blood. (That’d require too much mopping up I guess, something the movie’s laughable budget evidently couldn’t stretch to.)

Those darned Screamers decide to evolve into humans, as you do, and play wounded soldiers, weeping children, etc. When a gullible human comes too near – SPLAT! This brings us to my favourite scene in the movie, involving a base full of these demented child-bots being blown up, shot, stabbed and set on fire by our band of noble warriors – who, despite decimating a whole orphanage of these crazed little buggers, seem about as concerned as I was about the P98 content of my Mac and Cheese. Did you know that Mac and Cheese contains Modified Maize Starch, which combined with refined Rapeseed Oil may not be suitable for those with specialised dietary requirements? No? Neither did I – but it’s amazing how interesting things like that get when you’re confronted with cinematic abortions like Screamers.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where this movie goes wrong. Be it the laughable “acting”, the terrible made-for-TV style special effects (guns made out of cardboard tubes etc), the complete lack of tension or suspense, the lack of cohesion (one moment they’re in the desert, the next they’re on a snow-covered mountain), pacing, or character building, or maybe even the knowledge that it takes a truly demented and sadistic kind of human being to turn a good book into 1hr 45mins of celluloid punishment. The only redeeming features are that most of the bottom-of-the-barrel actors who disgrace this movie die before the end. That, and the fact that this movie is unlikely to ever cost more than $5 to buy – so at least you won’t waste your money.

Don’t watch this movie – not even if you’ve been bad and want to punish yourself in some kind of sadistic kind of way. Myself and the other deluded souls who run my website stayed up until 3am watching this, the cinematic equivalent of genital herpes. Yes, this is possibly the best Peter Weller movie other than Robocop. Big deal. Dolph Lundgren shits out better movies six times a year – and that’s saying something. I’d normally say that this a DVD for the collections of die-hard Weller fans only, but I know deep down in the pit of my stomach that such a thing does not exist.

As for my own reaction to this film, I can only hope that the misery and punishment endured by both myself and my friends was some kind of twisted initiation inflicted upon new Rogues. Perhaps there are good robot b-movies out there. I sure hope so – because a genre flooded with this insufferable idiocy could only bring pain and misery to mankind. Watching Peter “Robocop” Weller mope about on screen for near two hours makes me almost beg for the comparative genius of Will Smith and those big, flappy ears of his. Even Schwarzenegger comes across as a seasoned pro in comparison. Is this crap-fest a one-off? I hope so – because I sure as hell don’t want to have to waste any more of my young life with this… this… heinous wank.

Don’t watch this movie. If you already have, then may God have mercy on your soul.

I’m off to go throw up. See you next month.

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Rogue Reviewers Roundtable Topic: The Robotic Menace

David’s Review Site: Death by Cinema