MARCH 26, 2009
I wonder if the producers behind the myriad DTV sequels that have cropped up over the past year or so want to murder Joe Lynch and the rest of the Wrong Turn 2 crew. By delivering such a top notch sequel, it elevated the idea of what a non-theatrical sequel could be capable of delivering, and in turn made their lazy efforts (let’s throw in an example here: Vacancy 2) seem even worse than they would had WT2 never come along. So it’s a nice surprise to report that Screamers: The Hunting, a sequel only one man in the world was asking for (that would be Don the DVD fanatic), is actually pretty decent. It wouldn’t win a cage match with WT2, but it’s certainly an example of how to deliver an entertaining entry in a fledgling franchise.
For starters, it improves on the original. Not by much, but it does so in the areas that count: gore and effects. The screamers look better, and they interact with the backgrounds in a far more believable way. They also fuck folks up - I was actually surprised by how gory some of the kills were. It’s hardly a splatter film, but compared to the nearly bloodless kills in the original, it’s fucking Dead Alive. Plus, the human/screamer hybrids are truly hybrids this time around; their jaws open to reveal machinery and blades inside (it kind of looks like a robotic version of those things in Blade II). The body count is higher too, for what it’s worth.
It’s also improved in the pace department. It’s more or less a remake of the original, with folks going to check on a distress call and yadda yadda, but they move along. In the original, the first 45 minutes gave us... a mostly offscreen plane crash and a mostly offscreen opening attack. Here we get true carnage, a firefight, a couple of gory kills, etc.
Unfortunately, it also retains the original’s bizarre penchant of keeping important cast members to the 3rd act of the film. At least they aren’t lying about Lance Henriksen’s role - he is listed in the “and” role, not 2nd billed like Jennifer “I don’t appear in the movie for nearly an hour” Rubin was in Screamers 1. But still, it’s not until the 70 minute mark that Lance finally appears, and he dies less than 10 minutes later. I actually began to wonder if the guy making the credits just assumed Lance was in the movie (“Space? Robots? DTV? Yeah, Lance has gotta be in here...”) and put his name in there just in case, as he doesn’t appear on the cover either.
Speaking of Lance, one must think of Aliens. For years, any low budget sci-fi/horror movie used Cameron’s film as a template when characterizing its main players. You always get the fish out of water teaming up with a bunch of hardasses. But it seems Screamers was actually using Battlestar Galactica as its template. We have the strong female, sure, but she’s not an outsider or whatever like Ripley was. They are a team, and they flirt with each other and more or less act like normal humans with normal issues. They even refer to the Screamers as "Toasters" at one point - sort of a giveaway. Even the requisite “evil” human isn’t a slimy fuck like Burke, he simply sees an opportunity to make some money, but isn’t doing so at the risk of his teammates’ lives. Keeping him in a morally gray area is far more interesting, much like BSG’s Baltar (at least, in the earlier seasons - I’m only on season 3 but he seems pretty much a full on villain at this point). It’s a change I hope to see more of; there’s only so many Hudson wannabes I can take in one lifetime.
At least one fellow reviewer has bemoaned the idea of rats being in the movie (and actually causing the screamers to “wake up”), but they were in the original too, so shut the fuck up. Rats are everywhere, and that’s all there is to it. Speaking of the original, it does have some ties; Peter Weller’s character is often mentioned (one of the characters is his daughter). Oddly, the opening credits once again say “based on the short story by Philip K. Dick”, but mention none of the original’s screenwriters.
Hey, why is it whenever someone in a movie mentions “raw materials”, I immediately want to go back to Star Wars Galaxies? Anyone else play that broken-ass game? I used to love crafting shit out of my hard-grinded materials. Folks would report of a great vein of Goobledygookdium on the planet Goofynameia and I’d go off with my survey tools in order to make a gun that would fetch me 200 credits... man, good times. I understand Fallout 3 has some crafting involved, I should get on that shit.
My notes have “Let’s go” written down. I dunno why, maybe I liked how they said it or something. Or maybe I was having flashbacks to The Cars. Whatever.
I also want to officially call it - every actress with the last name Holden is incredibly beautiful. Alexandra, Laurie, and now Gina Holden, the star of this movie (which, I am still technically reviewing, despite the length tangents I have taken). She reminds me a bit of Gabrielle Anwar, which is the polar opposite of a problem. She’s also the type of action heroine I like - she’s smart and tough, but she doesn’t have that annoying “grrrrl” attitude that makes me feel like I’m watching some sort of feminist propaganda (see: Tank Girl). Put this lovely woman in more movies, preferably ones people besides obsessive compulsive horror movie nerds will see.
The DVD’s only extra is a featurette that was also surprisingly above-average. It covers the usual ground (casting, story, visual effects), but it does so by literally taking you through the movie (do not watch it before watching the film, as it gives away the end), and keeps random clip usage to a minimum. Its worth noting that Lance appears in it more than he does in the film itself. One thing I was looking for, however, was information on what the movie was shot on; it looked a lot like digital at times, but they never discuss it. The end credits are no help, I only learned that this movie’s existence is due to Canadian Tax Brackets - about a dozen different of them are “thanked”.
So is it worth a watch? I would say so. I had fun watching it, unlike the dull original, and it was competently made across the board. Compared to Sony’s other recent DTV sequels, it’s theatrical-worthy. And I’d like to point out that director Sheldon Wilson also directed the surprisingly decent Kaw, so at this point I have to assume he’s not one of the hundreds of faceless hacks out there in DTV land, and is someone who actually gives a shit. Kudos, sir.
What say you?
And now, Horror Movie A Day and Happy Hour Comics would like to present the newest in an ongoing series of HMAD-inspired comic strips. I hope you enjoy!! (Click to enlarge)