STARRING: Peter Weller, Roy Dupuis, Jennifer Rubin, Andy Lauer, Charles Powell, Ron White, Michael Caloz

1996, 107 Minutes, Directed by: Christian Duguay

When I first read Second Variety, a Philip K Dick short story he wrote way back in 1952 I thought that it would make a very good movie. There's a lot of excitement and tension in the story that can be presented visually and then there's also that typical Dickian obsession with what is human and what is real and what isn't.

Obviously I wasn't the only one who thought so: Dan O'Bannon (who scripted Alien) also thought so and wrote a screenplay based on the short story. Unfortunately we must have been the only people who thought so because the screenplay spent 15 years in "development hell" and only recently got made by an unknown Canadian outfit as Screamers. So don't be on the lookout for any familiar faces: the only one you might recognize is Peter Weller who played Robocop and starred in Naked Lunch . . .

Is it a good film? Well, the short story is always better but there's a lot going for this film: it remains reasonably faithful to the original short story, the production values are okay and some of the dialogue is pretty effective. On the surface it's little else except a group of people running around and vicious creatures attacking them (much like Alien), but there's some typical Dickian ambiguity about who is human much like in Blade Runner to make this a cut above average entertainment.

To be honest, I thought that this film was better than Independence Day, that other sci-fi flick I recently saw. Whereas Independence Day is a gleeful repetition of tired clichés, there's a certain intelligence to Screamers. What makes this sad is that while Independence Day and its brainlessness is raking in the crowds at cinemas, Screamers went straight to the video shelves here in South Africa . . .

Quick - what other Philip K. Dick stories were made into movies besides this and Blade Runner? Answer: Total Recall, Impostor, Minority Report and Paycheck.


Sci-Fi Movie Page Pick: Effective at times. Based on a Philip K. Dick short story called "Second Variety", Screamers may play like a downbeat version of Aliens, but it has its moments.



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