• Screamers (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: January 15th, 2019.
    Director: Christian Duguay
    Cast: Peter Weller, Roy Dupuis, Jennifer Rubin, Andy Lauer
    Year: 1996
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    Screamers – Movie Review:

    In the future of 2078, Alliance Commander Col. Joseph Hendrickson (Peter Weller) has been put in charge of protecting Alliance outpost Sirius 6B from rebellious members of the New Economic Bloc. The Alliance are basically pissed off miners and scientists and the New Economic Bloc essentially the massive corporation that is still hoping to keep them under their thumb. To do this, Hendrickson and his crew have been outfitted with Screamers – a weaponized machine that can burrow through pretty much anything and track down anything with a heart beat and pretty much obliterate it. They’re named after the fact that as they approach their targets, they emit a super loud screaming noise, ruining the element of surprise but making for some pretty keen horror set pieces.

    Neat! At least it is until the Screamers start evolving into mechanical human hybrid things that thrive on mass slaughter – and not only that, they’re now able to self-replicate. The war gets to the point where Alliance members are simply going to be abandoned on Sirius 6B, left to die, really, leaving Hendrickson and right-hand man Ace Jefferson (Andrew Lauer) little choice to try and make peace with the N.E.B. before the Screamers basically kill everyone left.

    You have to suspend your disbelief a fair bit with this one, as characters don’t always act logically and most of the time adhere to pretty basic stereotypes. There are also some pacing issues which results in a film that feels about fifteen-minutes longer than it needed to be. None of these quirks are deal breakers, however, as the end result is still a lot of good B-movie fun. With a screenplay from Dan O’Bannon based on the Philip K. Dick story Second Variety, it has a simple but effective premise and just enough of a budget behind it to result in some strong, if not always completely convincing, special effects work. There’s some cool miniature work here and even some stop motion in spots, all of which add to the film’s charm and give it more life than digital would have been able to back in 1995 when the picture was made.

    Peter Weller basically plays Peter Weller here. He doesn’t seem to feel the need to stretch outside his comfort zone, but if you appreciate his typically deadpan style of acting then you’ll get a kick out of watching him in the lead role. Andrew Lauer also does fine work here and, not to be forgotten, the lovely Jennifer Rubin, of A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors, shines as Weller’s love interest in the film (though she’s sorely underused in the film).

    Screamers – Blu-ray Review:

    The AVC encoded 1080p high definition for Screamers is framed at 1.85.1 widescreen showcases the fact that Screamers is very much a product of its time. That’s not a fault, but it does mean that some of the shots using optical effects and matte paintings in the background can and do look a little hazy. The film’s colors seem to be intentionally toned down, so don’t expect it to leap off the screen at you the way some Blu-ray transfers can, but this does seem to be a pretty accurate reflection of how the film has always looked. The colors that are used throughout the film, lots of earth tones and pale greys and the like, look natural enough and black levels are good. Some small white specks show up now and again but there isn’t any serious print damage. Grain is present, as you’d expect, and the image is free of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement. The transfer is placed on a 50GB disc and given a good bit rate, so compression artifacts are never really a problem. Detail levels do fluctuate a bit here and there with closeup shots faring the best. All in all, this looks fine, it seems to be a pretty accurate reflection of the film’s intended look and it certainly offers a nice upgrade over past DVD editions.

    The only audio option offered on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. Audio quality on the disc is solid enough. There’s some good channel separation in the mix while the levels stay balanced. The track is perfectly clean, there are no issues with any hiss or distortion and you’ll always be able to understand what everyone’s saying. The score is enjoyably punchy in spots as well, and the sound effects have a nice amount of power behind them when the movie calls for it.

    Director Christian Duguay shows up in a twenty-one-minute featurette called Northern Frights where he talks about how he got his start working in the film industry before then going on to offer up some specifics about working on Screamers. He discusses the source material a bit and expresses his gratitude to the cast and crew he was involved with her. From Runaway To Space is a nineteen-minute interview with actress Jennifer Rubin. She shares some memories from the set, talking about her feelings on her co-stars and on the movie itself. Orchestrating The Future spends twenty-four-minutes with producer Tom Berry how talks about getting the project moving, collaborating with Duguay, his thoughts on the material as well as some insight into what he thinks about the finished product. Co-writer Miguel Tejada-Flores shows up in the eleven-minute More Screamer Than Human wherein he talks about what was involved in adapting Dick’s original material and making it into the movie we now have as well as how he feels about the end result and adaptation.

    Aside from that, we get a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. Additionally, Shout! Factory has packaged this release with some nice reversible cover sleeve art.

    Screamers – The Final Word:

    Screamers might be flawed, but it’s fun thanks to some intriguing ideas, a couple of good performances and some pretty decent action set pieces. Shout! Factory has done a nice job bringing it to Blu-ray with a more than decent presentation and a nice array of extra features. It’s a solid release of an enjoyable B-movie.

    Click on the images below for full sized Screamers Blu-ray screen caps!