Screamers: The Hunting (2009) — A clichéd Aliens photocopy

“They’re prototypes. The newest variety.”

Justin’s rating: In space, no one can hear you scream. Because nobody saw this.

Justin’s review: In my opinion, Screamers was an underrated scifi gem from the 1990s, delivering a nail-biting premise from a Philip K. Dick story with even amounts of science fiction action beats and horror suspense. It really did seem like a good premise to kick off a franchise, but unlike many of its contemporaries like Tremors or Resident Evil, sequels didn’t materialize. At least, that is, until a single direct-to-video effort appeared in 2009, here and gone.

You can barely call it a franchise, really.

If you recall, Screamers told the tale of a mining planet that had been at war for so long that both sides had developed weapons so terrifying that it kept those sides apart — and whittled them down to practically nothing. The weapons in question were the titular screamers, autonomous mobile swords (blade ball robots) that tunneled underground to whatever target needed to be cut down to size. Eventually, the screamers iterated so much that the newest model looked and acted human until it burst open with all sorts of razors and knives.

Screamers: The Hunting picks up years after when a rescue ship is sent to pick up survivors who set off a rescue beacon. There’s a bit of a time limit — a magnetic storm is heading toward Sirius 6B to wipe out the planet in six days, and the title cards will not let you forget it — not to mention so much personal baggage that the rescue ship exceeded its angst limit.

Yup, it’s one of those movies where all of the good guys are going to walk for miles on foot so that they can be easily dispatched by screamers and radioactive acid (I swear, this movie has radioactive acid, which is the worst kind of acid I think you’ll agree). It’s also one of those movies where there’s so little actual plot that the writers tried to cram in a story in each of the cannon fodder. So we’ve got a woman who’s coming on the mission for mysterious reasons, a guy who won’t shut up about being a Viking, Captain Exposition, and so on.

Clearly, the inspiration here is to be a low-budget Aliens, especially with how an armed rescue team shows up on an infested planet without really knowing what they had gotten themselves into. There’s a Burke-like guy trying to take home forbidden weapons tech to make money. And Lance Henriksen — Aliens‘ Bishop — appears to try to give this effort some credibility. But while Aliens had genuinely interesting and funny characters, Screamers 2 is packed with the type of acting and characterization that you’d expect with the words “direct-to-video.”

So everything is hunky-dory until one of the rescuers accidentally activates a screamers factory and gets the killing machines revved up once again. But since we already saw that screamers could look like humans in the previous movie, there isn’t any place to go with their development other than, you know, do it again. It’s all complicated by the fact that the humans they’re sent to rescue think that they’re all screamers and… paranoia reigns.

I had faint hopes that Screamers 2 would display some of the cleverness of the first movie, but it was quickly apparent that wasn’t going to happen here. I’ll say this at least: The filmmakers did try to create a proper sequel to continue the story. The problem was that there wasn’t much story to continue. Everything had already been wrapped up. So the result felt like someone coming a day late to a party then putting back up the decorations to throw a much lesser after-party.

The only purpose I can see here is for a movie to rack up as many mentions on TV Tropes as possible. For pete’s sake, the black guy dies (almost) first, and there’s a not a line of dialogue that you can’t see coming from a mile away.

It’s not a good movie, not even close, but it might be worth seeing if you simply want to wallow in screamer attacks and designs. Then again, you could simply rent Aliens and Screamers and have a terrific afternoon experience without this one even entering into the picture.

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