MARCH 16, 2009
Before I begin, I’d like to thank Netflix for sending me the fucking full-frame version of Screamers, because I really only care about the middle part of a frame and never look at the 20% that gets cut off for the benefit of complete fucktards. Awesome. In all seriousness, I consider cropping to be just as vile as editing a movie without the director’s consent, and full frame discs should all be smashed and buried next to all of those ET Atari cartridges in New Mexico.
Anyway, even a glorious anamorphic Blu-Ray of Screamers wouldn’t make the movie much better. If anything, it might actually make it WORSE, since one of its two biggest flaws are its criminally bad special effects, and more resolution would reveal more of their terribleness. Other than Peter Weller, no one in the movie is a real draw, and the entire thing takes place in ugly warehouses and computer labs, so where the fuck did the reported 20 million budget go? Did it really cost a lot of money to pull off shit like this?
If you are making a special effects based horror movie without any big stars (even Weller was never really A-list, though he certainly adds credibility to any film), the effects should be topnotch. But not a single shot of the Screamers (except when they are just rolling under the ground) looks good; even when they’re not interacting with actors they look incredibly fake due to terrible compositing. Worse, there are never any really great money shots either. Take the first attack - the dude loses his arm, and then a leg. The razors ensure a perfectly straight, nearly bloodless cut, which is annoying enough, but then when the thing goes in for the kill (i.e. the head) we just cut to someone watching it in horror. LAME.
The other, more problematic, er, problem, is that the concept of Screamers that look like humans is never fully utilized, because the movie’s haphazard structure never allows you to care about anyone but Weller. It’s sort of like "The Odyssey", with Weller as Odysseus and all the other characters joining and leaving the story at random. Hell, he doesn’t even meet up with the main group of survivors until past the halfway point! It’s hard to be like “Oh no, that guy’s a robot!?!?” when you barely knew him anyway. It mainly just seems like a quick way around having more terrible robot shots; you can almost hear a producer on the set: “We need another kill scene. But god, those effects... hey, you! You’re a Screamer now!” Worse, the script (by Dan O’Bannon and some other guy who didn’t write Alien) hardly bothers with any sort of significant suspicion and paranoia sequences, which are integral to doing any sort of The Thing-style plot.
Actually, I take that back. At one point Weller suspects that Jennifer Rubin’s character is a robot, so he slices her hand open. Upon seeing blood, he wraps it up and apologizes... and then they fuck. While it certainly helps further the notion that Peter Weller is, in fact, a badass, it doesn’t quite qualify as successful suspense. It does give psychopaths a new method of trying to land the object of their desire though, so there’s something.
Weller is, of course, the only really good thing about the movie (OK, some of the music is pretty cool too). He’s the same sort of intelligent hardass he always plays, but unlike say, Robocop, there’s nothing to distract you away from his performance (you know, like, good effects or a worthy story). Over the course of the movie, he gets to shoot a kid in the face, fuck a Dream Warrior, listen to classical music, and display his mastery over a remote control for a holographic person (one that they open a door for, for some reason). He also delivers this line: “If you’re going to be a rock, be a rock! Don’t be a bug!”, after discovering a bug that looks like a rock. I liked that line because it sounds like something I would yell at a completely inanimate object (the scorn I heap on my universal remote is enough to put it into therapy).
The only reason I watched this movie was to prepare myself for the new DTV sequel, which is one of the ever-dwindling number of qualifiable HMAD entries available in the Blockbuster store. But A. they changed the exchange policy, which means I no longer have any reason to rent films from the store, and B. it sucked, so I don’t really want to bother with a sequel to a movie that should have gone DTV itself. But I’m sure I will. At least it’s a widescreen transfer.
What say you?