A sci-fi horror that cratered at the box office frustratingly flirts with greatness before falling to pieces
The 1990s proved to be a curious decade for the sci-fi horror subgenre, and not in a good way. The decade was littered with a string of cult classics and underappreciated gems, but the majority of them tended to flop at the box office before finding an audience, with Screamers proving to be one of the most pertinent examples.
In a similar vein to spiritual bedfellows like Paul W.S. Anderson’s enduring cult classic Event Horizon and the blockbuster-sized Jamie Lee Curtis disaster Virus, director Christian Duguay took a recognizable ensemble cast and dropped them into an intergalactic tale of terror that combined practical effects with CGI to a relentlessly inconsistent degree, with the end result a huge commercial failure.
At a cost of $14 million, Screamers didn’t even make it to $6 million in domestic ticket sales, while respective Rotten Tomatoes scores of 29 and 45 percent from critics and crowds highlight that it didn’t come close to making the most of a fascinating concept, or the Philip K. Dick short story it was inspired by.
However, a reflective Reddit thread has opined that the film was agonizingly close to greatness before cutting itself off at the knees, and it’s a hard one to disagree with for those to have witnessed Screamers firsthand. The plot sees Peter Weller and his crew set off to a remote planet to settle a labor dispute, only to discover the dusty plains are infested by a rogue AI capable of replication, which has evolved into the villains of the title being able to assume human form.
An A-grade premise laced with unrelenting paranoia and a solid central turn from Weller, some sketchy effects and a script that all too often devolves into unintentionally hilarious territory turned Screamers into one major missed opportunity, even if there’s still some fun to be had along the way. Just avoid the sequel at all costs.