Based on a short story by the great nutball sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick, Screamers is more like a high-pitched rip-off of Alien (it was cowritten by Alien’s Dan O’Bannon). The year is 2078 on the radiation-contaminated planet Sirius 6B. Col. Joe Hendricksson (Peter Weller) and a small band of survivors are trying to make peace between the opposing sides of a war. (In Dick’s story, it was the U.S. and the USSR; here, it’s Hendricksson’s Alliance versus something ominously Gingrichy called the New Economic Bloc.) The conflict has ravaged the planet, leaving it a dusty, rusty dump overrun by Screamers — mechanical creatures of great strength with very sharp teeth, originally designed to protect humans, but who’ve developed their own intelligence and are now uncontrollable.
Christian Duguay directs a series of long, slow scenes, each culminating in a violent BOO! The Screamers are stiff stop-motion gadgets. Weller — the Skull Who Can Act — gives far more than the movie deserves, imbuing Hendricksson with both a steely sense of humor and despair. And as a glowering black marketeer, Jennifer Rubin, until now an unexploited find in exploitation films, gets the break she deserves as both a kisser and a kung fu kicker. C+