Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Film Review: SCREAMERS (1995, Christian Duguay)

Stars: 3 of 5.
Running Time: 108 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Peter Weller, Jennifer Rubin, co-written by Dan O'Bannon, who'd been kicking around the screenplay since the early 80's.
Tag-lines: "The silence of space is about to be shattered." Although, given the involvement of O'Bannon, maybe it should have been "In space no one can hear you... scream(ers)."
Best one-liner: "He's a fucking toaster!"

For what it is, I was pretty impressed with SCREAMERS. It ought to have three strikes against it from the outset:
1. A fairly low budget for an outer space epic,
2. A release date of 1996 (a dark time for quality sci-fi, as bad CGI began to rear its loathsome head), and
3. Direction by Christian Duguay. Duguay is basically David Cronenberg's sloppy seconds. He's Canadian, he made SCANNERS into a straight-to-video trilogy (WITHOUT Michael Ironside), he uses post-NAKED LUNCH Peter Weller, and here he also tackles Philip K. Dick (one of Cronenberg's greatest influences- see VIDEODROME). And SCREAMERS is basically THE THING meets TREMORS meets PHANTASM, but without being as good as any of them. This should be awful. And the mawkish, inane ending is. But everything that precedes said hideous denouement is extremely solid.

As solid as Peter Weller.

We've got a screenplay by Dan O'Bannon (RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, TOTAL RECALL, ALIEN), an excellent lead performance by the always serviceable Weller, and- be still my heart- minimal use of bad CGI! (With stop motion, trick photography, and makeup used to a generally favorable effect.)

Jennifer Rubin (the switchblade swingin', recovering junkie from NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3) is our female lead, and appears to be quite literally under the influence of 'ludes for her first couple scenes- but somehow it works!

There's mind-boggling soundtrack choices and bad comic relief (with the taciturn Weller getting annoyed by a chatterbox rookie), but out of nowhere, a few genuine (O'Bannon) humanizing moments creep through. And, eerily, it seems that the flick wanted to make "Can I come with you?" a catchphrase in the same vein as "Want some candy?" in PREDATOR 2.


In fact, for the dipsomaniacal drinking game fans among us, if you take a drink every time you hear the repeated lines "Can I come with you?" and "Get off my back!," by the film's close you'll probably think that you're a Screamer. Solid sci-fi, disappointing ending, three stars.

-Sean Gill

1 comment:

skeelo said...

I completely agree about the ending. Very solid up to that point.. Surprising