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Screamers: The Hunting (2009)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 2/17/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/13/2009

In 1981, an Italian film known as The Island of the Fishmen was released in the United States under the title Screamers. (The movie quickly gained an unusual reputation, as it was advertised with the tagline, "You will actually see someone turned inside out... while he's still alive!"...although this scene wasn't in the original cut of the film.) Then, in 1995, science-fiction film based on a story by prolific author Philip K. Dick, called Screamers was released. This movie reportedly tanked at the box-office, and I've never heard/read of it having a cult following. These films shouldn't be confused with the bottom-of-the-barrel Troma release Girls School Screamers. So, the title "Screamers" doesn't exactly have a great reputation, but that didn't stop someone from making a sequel to the 1995 film entitled, Screamers: The Hunting.

Screamers: The Hunting begins years after the events of Screamers, which took place on the planet Sirius 6B. A distress signal has been sent out from the planet, and a group from Earth has come to investigate. The spaceship lands on Sirius 6B and Bronte (Gina Holden), Schwartz (Jana Pallaske), Sexton (Greg Bryk), Madden (Tim Rozon), Romulo (Dave Lapommeray), and Danielli (Christopher Redman) take to the surface of the planet, while Soderquist (Jody Richardson). The group is aware that there may be screamers on the planet. Screamers are man-made killing machines which burrow underground to stalk their pray, and each group member is wearing a device which is supposed to deter screamers from attacking. There had been rumors that the original screamers had become self-sufficient and even evolved. The group finds a group of humans on the planet, but they are hostile. They also quickly learn that screamers are afoot and that they will attack. They stumble across a screamer assembly line which is dormant and filled with thousands of screamers. When the machines are awakened, the group finds themselves fighting for their lives.

Again, Screamers: The Hunting is a sequel to a movie which was released some 13 years ago, and isn't exactly the most popular movie ever made. Still, this new movie assumes that we've seen the original, as it non-chalantly throws around the history of the screamers and talks about Joe Hendricksson (Peter Weller's character from the first film), as if we are on a first-name basis with the character. The problem is that there is no recap or detailed information about that story. I haven't seen Screamers since it was first released and I had to go on-line and read a synopsis of the movie simply to get an idea of what was happening. (For the record, it didn't help. I don't remember a thing about that movie.) This is just the first of many problems with Screamers: The Hunting.

The story is credited to Tom Berry and the screenplay to Miguel Tejada-Flores (a veteran writer), but the movie feels as if many different writers throw in ideas, none of which gel. The film opens with three ragtag individuals fleeing from the screamers in order to enter an enclosure and activate the aforementioned distress signal. But, once the soldiers arrive and confront the locals, the residents of Sirius 6B act as if they don't know what they are talking about. The distress signal story is quickly dropped. The screamers are used merely as a convenient plot device, and they arrive when needed. In the meantime, there is no discussion about how they work or how to stop them. It's as if they are an accepted nuisance and people how tired of discussing them. When the soldiers embark on their mission, we learn that they must complete it in six days before the planet is destroyed by a passing storm. Six days? Really? Twenty-four to forty-eight hours I would believe, but six days? Allowing nearly a week for a story to happen doesn't necessarily create a ton of tension.

The story doesn't get much help from the lackluster direction of Sheldon Wilson, who brought us the immortal stinker Kaw. While he does get a lot of mileage out of the location landscapes in the Canadian Badlands, the movie is sluggish and boring. Every few minutes, we are treated to a gory screamer attack, but the scenes in-between are filled with dull and stilted dialogue. The cast is average, but, in their defense, they aren't given much to work with.

So, we've got a sequel to a movie which you've probably never heard of. But, have you heard of Aliens, The Terminator, and Starship Troopers? Screamers: The Hunting borrows liberally from those more recognizable and much better films, as it stitches together its patch-work story. Not gory enough for horror fans and to run-of-the-mill for those looking for a sci-fi film, the only thing that Screamers: The Hunting will be hunting for is an audience.

Screamers: The Hunting tunnels onto DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is notably sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. I don't know if this was shot on HD (most suspicion is that it was), but for a low-budget direct-to-video movie, it has a very nice look to it. The landscape shots look fine and the scenes in the bunkers are never too dark. Colors are good, and there is no overt artifacting. The DVD offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are quite good, especially during the screamer attacks. The surround sound effects are strong and prevalent, and there are several impressive moments where the audio moves from the front to the rear speakers. Several explosions provide solid subwoofer action.

The Screamers: The Hunting DVD contains only one extra. "Screamers: The Hunting Behind the Scenes" (24 minutes) is a fairly detailed making-of featurette. It explores the story, the cast and characters, location scouting, special effects, creature design, and CG effects. The piece is comprised of some clips from the movie, interviews with the cast and filmmakers, and on-set footage.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long