I got this as a freebie with Screamers: The Hunting, the 2009 sequel. Plus, I got it from Poundland. Two films for a pound: you can't go wrong. Okay, if it was The Sound of Music and Grease for a pound, that would be spectacularly bad. But it wasn't. So we're fine. Phew.
Screamers is pretty much Tremors, but without the humour or charismatic leads. Peter Weller (Robocop) is top of the billing and that explains the lack of comedy. As discussed previously in the Buckaroo Banzai review, Weller suffers from a rare condition known as 'Chronic Stiff Face' which prevents him from showing any emotion or revealing a glimmer of personality. This role doesn't suit him too badly: as a military kind of guy, he can almost get away with bland-facing it through the film.
On a mining planet, in the not too distant future, a war is waging between the Alliance and the New Economic Bloc (America and Russia in other words). Crafty scientists from the Alliance have developed a new type of weapon that burrows under the ground, pops out and severs important appendages with its in-built circular saw. Mmm, nifty. A message is delivered to Joe Hendriksson (Weller) informing him that peace talks will be taking place at the NEB base. So, off he trots with Ace Jefferson (Andrew Lauer) in tow.
Screamers plays out like a template for the new Battlestar Galactica series. The screamers are referred to as 'toasters' and, as they discover that there are screamer upgrades that can resemble humans, a familiar sense of paranoia creeps in. It won't be a surprise to find out that there are some 'shock' revelations and that people get killed who don't turn out to be screamers. It's a shame watching it now as it felt quite fresh when it first came out.
I love static matte paintings (watch The Thing for some stunners) and their use in Screamers for enhancing locations is effective. I also love stop-motion animation; even though it's a bit jerky, you know it actually uses real-world objects. The screamer walking across the desk is a treat, with its whirring blade. The sequel will probably have CGI screamers, I'm guessing. What about using stop-motion and using a computer to smooth it all out? That would look cool.
If you have seen this before, it's probably not as good as you remember it. If you haven't, it's definitely worth a look for a quid. (Maybe buy it with the sequel: how bad can it be? Plus it works out cheaper.) If you can't be bothered, watch Tremors instead.
If you like this you could also try:
Tremors, Death Machine, Fortress, Hardware, Runaway.