Screamers (1995 film)

Screamers (1995 film)

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Christian Duguay
Produced by Franco Battista
Tom Berry
Written by Philip K. Dick (Short Story)
Screenplay by Dan O'Bannon
Miguel Tejada-Flores (screenplay)
Based on "Second Variety" by
Philip K. Dick
Starring Peter Weller
Roy Dupuis
Jennifer Rubin
Music by Normand Corbeil
Cinematography Rodney Gibbons
Distributed by Triumph Films
Release date(s) January 26, 1996 (1996-01-26)
Running time 108 minutes
Country Canada / United States / Japan
Language English
Budget $20 million

Screamers is a 1995 dystopian science fiction film directed by Christian Duguay and based on the short story "Second Variety" by Philip K. Dick.[1] Screamers stars Peter Weller, Roy Dupuis, and Jennifer Rubin.



Screamers is set in 2078 on Sirius 6B, a once thriving commercial and mining hub planet, now reduced to a wasteland by a civil war between the Alliance, a resistance group composed of the colony's former mining and science personnel, and their employers, the New Economic Bloc. Five years later, Alliance scientists created a new weapon system called the 'Autonomous Mobile Sword', an artificially intelligent self-replicating machine. Due to the noise emitted by the machines, the Alliance nicknamed them 'Screamers'. Since screamers are not designed to identify friend from foe, and track their targets via their heartbeats, Alliance scientists created a device called a 'Tab', which renders its wearer 'invisible' by broadcasting a signal which cancels out the wearer's heartbeat.

Both the Alliance and N.E.B. forces on Sirius 6B are exhausted, poorly supplied and undermanned. Consequently, they have a shaky stalemate. The Alliance's commanding officer, Joe Hendricksson (Peter Weller), receives word from Alliance Command on Earth that they are negotiating with the N.E.B. A message guaranteeing safe passage through N.E.B. territory for two Alliance officers to discuss a peace treaty is recovered from a dead N.E.B. soldier, killed by screamers when he approached the Alliance compound. When an Alliance troop transport from Earth crashes, the only survivor, Michael "Ace" Jefferson (Andrew Lauer), tells Hendricksson that the message from Earth was a lie. Hendricksson feels that Alliance command has been lying to them for years, intent on simply abandoning them on the ruined planet.

Feeling betrayed, Hendricksson accepts the N.E.B. peace offer and takes Jefferson with himself to meet the enemy commander, Marshall Richard Cooper. While traveling through a destroyed city, they discover a boy named David, clutching a teddy bear. The following night, they are attacked by a new type of 'lizard' screamer, and Hendricksson becomes suspicous of the Screamer's loyalties. When Hendricksson's group nears the N.E.B. compound, David is shot by an N.E.B. soldier, who reveals to the shocked Alliance soldiers that David is actually a "type 3" screamer, capable of impersonating a human. Three N.E.B. soldiers, Becker (Roy Dupuis), Ross (Charles Powell), and Jessica (Jennifer Rubin) explain that everyone else in their N.E.B. contingent was wiped out after their patrol teams had unwittingly brought a David screamer back to the base.

The group heads to the N.E.B. command center finding only an empty building and large pools of blood. Locating the mainframe computer, Hendricksson discovers the N.E.B. treaty message was also fake. The group retreats back to their bunker while being pursued by "type 3"s. Later, as the group argues, Becker kills Ross, claiming he was a screamer, though it is clear that he was not. Hendricksson decides to return to the Alliance base. When they get back, they find that everyone was wiped out by "type 3" screamers. As dozens of "type 3's" pour out of the bunker's entrance, Hendricksson fires a micro nuclear missile into the bunker's entrance, obliterating the screamers. Becker appears to have been seriously injured in the blast, prompting Jefferson to rush to his aid. Becker then kills Jefferson, revealing that he is also a screamer. Hendricksson then kills Becker. Following this, he and Jessica are the only survivors left.

Now quite paranoid, Hendricksson cuts Jessica's hand in order to determine whether or not she is a screamer. Seeing blood and satisfied she is human, they head for a hidden escape shuttle. They find that the shuttle can seat only one person. Hendricksson wants the reluctant Jessica to escape, but a second Jessica arrives, proving that Jessica is an advanced form of screamer. The two "Jessicas" fight, with the first protecting Hendricksson. The second Jessica is destroyed with the shuttle's engines. With her dying breath, the first Jessica professes her love for Hendricksson. Hendricksson notices that the screamers are evolving to become more human, since they have learned how to kill each other.

Hendricksson boards the shuttle and leaves for Earth. Contemplating everything that has happened, he plays with the teddy bear that was carried by the first "type 3" he encountered, before tossing it up onto the control console. In the closing shot, the teddy bear begins to slowly move on its own as the screen fades to black.


  • Peter Weller as Colonel Joseph A. Hendricksson. Leader of The Alliance on Sirius 6B
  • Roy Dupuis as Becker.
  • Jennifer Rubin as Jessica Hansen. A black market merchant
  • Andrew Lauer as Ace Jefferson. Alliance soldier who crashes in a ship on Sirius 6B
  • Charles Powell as Ross. A NEB soldier
  • Ron White as Chuck Elbarak
  • Michael Caloz as David.
  • Liliana Komorowska as Landowska
  • Jason Cavalier as Leone
  • Leni Parker as Corporal McDonald
  • Sylvain Massé. A NEB Soldier carrying a message to Alliance Command on Sirius 6B
  • Bruce Boa as Secretary Green. An administrator of The Alliance
  • Tom Berry as Technician
  • Henry Ramer as Screamers Crawl Narration (voice)


It premiered at the 1995 Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 1995. It was released in the United States on January 26, 1996.

Screamer types

Autonomous Mobile Swords are machines created by The Alliance to defend themselves against the NEB. Nicknamed "Screamers" for the incredibly loud, metallic squeal they emit before an attack.

Throughout the film, several types are introduced:

A destroyed Type 1 screamer
  • Type 1: These were the original screamers built by The Alliance. They embed themselves in the sand and ambush unsuspecting soldiers, slicing through limbs and torsos with a circular saw.
  • Type 1 Revised: A sleeker design than the original. They are vaguely lizard-shaped, with small legs, and they can hack into computer terminals. Armed with a head mounted buzzsaw blade.
  • Type 2: A grown man, acting as a wounded soldier crying for help. Not apparently armed, they do have a great deal of strength. One claims that it cut its current face off of the former wearer. This model possesses advanced reasoning skills and can interact with humans. However, they have a lower IQ and repeat phrases because of their limited vocabulary.
  • Type 3: A small boy holding a teddy bear. Acts as an orphan and pleads "can I come with you?", allowing the unit to be taken inside defended and fortified targets. Their mouths contain razor-like teeth and they have buzz saw blades embedded in their hands.

Other types that were not identified in the film are:

  • The teddy bear: Usually part of the Type 3 disguise.
  • A grown woman: The most advanced model, capable of bleeding, crying, laughing and sexual intercourse. This model, similar to the Type 2 soldier model, possesses advanced reasoning and sentience, as indicated in "Jessica" defending Hendricksson from another unit. The unit professed its love for him and refused to board the shuttle, afraid of what its programming would force her to do if she ever reached Earth. This character's "emotions" and actions stand in complete opposite to its counterpart in the original story, Second Variety.
  • Becker: Although acting as a Type 2 screamer, he was easily able to interact with humans, which this type is supposed to have difficulty with. His type and identification tag appeared to be written in the screamers' own language.


Screamers was filmed in a quarry in Quebec, in Montreal's Olympic Stadium, as well as Joliette. It was filmed on 35 mm film with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1.


Critical response

Screamers earned a 28% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 39 reviews.[2]

James Berardinelli gave the film a positive review, awarding it a rating of three stars (out of four). Berardinelli said that the film "oozes atmosphere" and "underlines an important truth: you don't need a big budget or big-name stars to make this sort of motion picture succeed."[3] Joe Bob Briggs also reacted positively, calling Screamers "a pretty dang decent [movie]" and saying, "I loved it. ... Three and a half stars."[4]

Roger Ebert gave the film two and a half stars (out of four), remarking that it was "made with a certain imagination and intelligence," "the dialogue is often effective," and "what makes the film somewhat intriguing is its Blade Runner-like ambiguity: who is, and who isn't, a human being."[5] Time Out New York Film Guide criticized director Christian Duguay's "flashy, aimless direction", saying that the movie "lacks the intelligence to follow through its grim premise", but added that the film "does offer many ... guilty pleasures" and "the design and effects teams have lent scale and impact to the futuristic locations and sets."[6]

The Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy Film Review gave Screamers three stars out of four, calling it a "two-thirds excellent and intelligent science-fiction film" that "builds towards a climax that never arrives ... After an impressive build-up, the film blows its third act and falls into cliches."[7] Popcorn Pictures gave the film two and a half stars out of four, writing: "Screamers isn't terrible. The scenes inside the refinery are creepy enough with them stalking and being stalked by the Screamers. But the intro and finale are terrible ways to start and end a film respectively. There was a good film waiting to come out here, it's a shame only half of it did."[8]

Rob Blackwelder of SplicedWire said, "Screamers is inundated with movie clichés, stock characters, stolen premises and scenes that just don't make sense."[9] Beyond Hollywood wrote, "One of the biggest problems with Screamers is the near absence of a likeable character, or at least someone who we actually give a damn about escaping those slice-and-dice robots. ... There's no doubt Screamers could have been a lot better than it is. The whole sequence at the refinery is the best of the movie, managing to elicit both a couple of scare scenes and a lot of creepiness. The rest, unfortunately, doesn't live up to that middle section."[10]

Box office

The film earned about $5.7 million in the United States and Canada,[11] on a $20 million budget. It was moderately popular in France, Japan, and the Netherlands. Worldwide box office was approximately $7 million.


Year Group Award Nominee Result
1996 Genie Awards Best Achievement in Art Direction/Production Design Perri Nominated
Best Achievement in Music - Original Score Normand Corbeil Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Ron White Nominated

Differences between Screamers and "Second Variety"

Although based on the short story "Second Variety", by Philip K. Dick, the basic ecophagy premise remains, there are several important differences between film and source story that make the film less pessimistic.

  • The protagonist of Screamers, Colonel Hendricksson, has a side-kick, Private Jefferson. His presence lightens the mood of the film's first half. In "Second Variety", the protagonist, Major Hendricks, travels alone.
  • Screamers occurs in the distant, future; "Second Variety" occurs in the 1950s.
  • The war in Screamers is fought between the Alliance and the New Economic Bloc over a natural resource. In "Second Variety", the Cold War degenerates to open war, between the United Nations and the Soviet Union.
  • Screamers occurs on the planet Sirius 6B, one of many colonys, and the only planet where the screamers were launched. The screamers do not threaten humanity, only the troops stationed on Sirius 6B. "Second Variety" occurs on Earth in what "used to be France"; There are increasingly rare radiated human survivors hiding on Earth, but the bulk of humanity survives in a military moon base. The human race is at risk of extermination.
  • In Second Variety the plot revolves around the discovery of the second variety of claw robot, the Type II. Jessica manages to convince Hendricksson that it is Hovno, but it is in fact revealed to be Jessica at the story's conclusion.
  • In Screamers, the "Jessica" screamer betrays her own kind and helps Col. Hendricksson escape. In "Second Variety", the "Tasso" screamer evidences no such love for Hendricksson. She wins Hendricksson's confidence in order to learn the concealed location of the rocket cruiser, the only available access to the human survivors on the moon base. Hendricksson's cooperation is essential, because the cruiser was designed for use solely by him, the "eye-lock only responds to [him]", the location of the base is not know to the claws, the base cannot be accessed without giving a correct flare sequence and Jessica does not know how to pilot the cruiser. The cruiser holds only one person. Hendricksson is wounded and ultimately, unaware that Jessica is a claw, Hendricksson is persuaded to give her his seat and the access codes to the moon base in the hopes that she will return with help. Once the ship departs Hendricksson is attacked by claws, amongst which are other Jessica models and before his presumed death, he realises that he has doomed humanity by providing the claws with both the location of and the access codes to the moon base.
  • In "Second Variety", Hendricks doomed the last humans by unwittingly sending Jessica to the moon base. In Screamers, a Teddy Bear screamer (used in "Second Variety" as an attack device by the "David" type) is a stowaway that Hendricksson unwittingly brings onto the escape rocket ship, but he is unaware of it; the human race's fate remains undecided.
  • In "Second Variety", the Wounded Soldier is Type 1, David is Type 3, Tasso ("Jessica") is Type 2, and Hovno ("Becker") is Type 4.

Release dates

DVD cover showing Hendericksson, Jessica, and Becker in the foreground

Screamers had the following release dates:

  • 1995 Toronto International Film Festival — September 8, 1995
  • Theatrical releases:
    • USA — January 26, 1996
    • Spain — April 25, 1996
    • Australia — May 2, 1996
    • Portugal — May 24, 1996
    • Poland — June 28, 1996
    • UK — June 28, 1996
    • France — July 10, 1996
    • Hungary — July 18, 1996
    • Germany — July 25, 1996
    • Netherlands — August 1, 1996
    • Japan — November 30, 1996
  • DVD — July 29, 1998


In January 2007, a sequel to Screamers began production. Filming took place in Bell Island, Newfoundland Canada. Directed by Sheldon Wilson, Screamers: The Hunting stars Gina Holden, Jana Pallaske, and Lance Henriksen, known for his many genre-fiction roles.

The film is set several years after the events of the first film. Colonel Hendricksson is revealed to have been killed by crashing his ship on reentry to Earth. On Earth it is believed he committed suicide due to posttraumatic stress; however, it is strongly implied throughout the events of the film that he crashed his ship to prevent the 'teddy bear' screamer on board from reaching Earth. The film follows the events of seven soldiers from Earth sent to investigate an SOS signal on Sirius 6B. Amongst the soldiers is Colonel Hendricksson's daughter, Lt. Victoria Bronte, who has volunteered for the mission in the hopes of finding out exactly what happened to her father.

As well as the screamers from the original film, this film introduces a sleeker, longer and more serpentine screamer, complete with cutting mandibles for a mouth.

The film was released straight to DVD in the US on February 17, 2009.[12][13] However it was released in Brazilian theaters.

As with Screamers, critical reaction to Screamers: The Hunting has been mixed. David Johnson of DVD Verdict wrote that "the visual effects were surprisingly effective" and "[p]ractical effects impress as well", but added, "Unfortunately ... the script defaults to a clichéd finale, and a predictable -- though well-executed -- final twist ending." He concluded, "I had a pretty decent time with [Screamers: The Hunting] ... [I]f you're hankering for a serving of effective sci-fi B-movie shenanigans, you could do a lot worse."[14] Scott Foy of Dread Central reacted less positively, writing: "They've basically recycled the first film but dumbed it and dulled it down considerably, doing away with the paranoia and sense of desolation that gave the original some spark in favor of logic gaps and tedious predictability. ... The best that can be said for [the movie] is that most of the production values and make-up effects are top notch for a direct-to-DVD production. Too bad they didn't put as much work into crafting the screenplay."[15]

Special effects of the sequel were produced by Modus FX in Montreal.


  1. ^ "Ring in the New Year with 10 Futuristic Horror Films". 
  2. ^ Rotten Tomatoes. "Screamers". 
  3. ^ Review by James Berardinelli, ReelViews, 1996
  4. ^ Screamers review Joe Bob Briggs,
  5. ^ Review by Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, January 26, 1996
  6. ^ Time Out Film Guide Review, Time Out, 1996
  7. ^ Screamers review The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review
  8. ^ Screamers review Popcorn Pictures
  9. ^ Review by Rob Blackwelder, SplicedWire, 1996
  10. ^ Screamers review Beyond Hollywood, March 9, 2003
  11. ^ "Screamers". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 30, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Screamers 2", The Movie Blog, 2007
  13. ^ [1], Dread Central, 2009
  14. ^ Screamers: The Hunting review David Johnson, DVD Verdict, February 20th, 2009
  15. ^ Screamers: The Hunting review Scott Foy, Dread Central

External links

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