Directed by Sheldon Wilson. Story by Tom Berry. Loosely adapted from Philip K. Dick's "Second Variety". Starring Lance Henriksen (briefly), Gina Holden.


Ok. Let's start with this: the ending is patently ridiculous. It is not so much a poor ending as one that feels as though it takes itself too seriously by half. I will not say if it was a twist ending (considering the standard pseudo-PKD material, where twist endings are very overused, is it more a twist ending to have a twist ending or not to have a twist ending?) or not. I will just say that if you are the kind of movie goer who needs the ending to really just knock the movie out of the park, stop somewhere between about 20 and 5 minutes out. Just about anywhere in that line you will get an unfulfilling ending but at least you will avoid the annoying "aha!" cleverness the real ending buys you.

Now that I have convinced everyone that the movie is lousy, let me say that is not. I enjoyed the movie, more or less. Chances are if you like science fiction movies with some action bits and some horror bits, then you will find some enjoyment out of this one. It is overall fun, if unintentionally in places, and it keeps the pace moving. It never really fills in the big gaps from the first one, but it suggests its own gaps to fill in and does so (retconning I suppose). It only made me groan once (the ending) and overall comes across as a fair acted, generally well effected, foray into the much lacking SF genre. It does have some issues with balancing potential with execution, though, and never quite gets into the rhythm it is trying to find.

To catch you up: 13 years ago was Screamers, a movie about killer robots that get more and more tricksy and human. They were designed to be the perfect weapon because they were guaranteed to kill even if their masters were destroyed, and were given the ability to evolve and to replicate in great numbers. I take it as a basic Cold War morality tale about the silliness of a nuclear arsenal. Especially since screamers (as the robots are called) target even their own masters if their masters do not take the proper precautions.

The first movie ends with a single character escaping (his fate is described early on in this movie) and, let me say, an ending that had best have been intended for laughs because there is almost no way it could have been taken otherwise. The poor, to me, ending was made up by awesome acting by Peter Weller and those little pieces of flair: "Smoke your reds", TABs, and one character's love of his music player.As said, this is 13 years later, both in production and in in-world time (I think this is right). Sirius 6B, the world of the original, is being returned to after a distress signal alerts the Earth there might be more survivors. A rescue crew shows up and all hell breaks loose.

Now to the not-up-to-full-potential bits I was talking about. Somewhere not superfar into the movie, it is mentioned that screamers will sometimes fight one another. This could have been used more. In fact, if the main focus would have been screamer on screamer battles with humans caught in the middle, this movie might have been destined for a cult classic. As it is, with one possible interpretation excepted, that line is meant for flavor text and is not brought about. Secondly, nearly every screamer that shows up are basic tunnelling models (look like orbs with spikes on one side) or scuttering models (something like horseshoe crabs). By the end of the first movie, there were several types and this is years later. A half dozen models (say: flying screamers, screamers with projectiles, more humanoids) would have livened things up. What is possibly weirdest of all is that the screamer designs from the first one do not also show up. It is as if there was some lateral progression and the original screamers have become different looking, but not different acting, bots. Finally, Lance Henriksen ends up playing a mythologically significant character, and has way too little time to do anything with it. Doubling the role of his character would have went a long way to fixing the entire movie.

What does work is the increased gore and at least one of the new screamer designs (I think there are three, throughout) is kind of awesome in a scary, SF sort of way. Not to say that it is a gory movie, but the first one had a plastic feel to its gore scenes that decreased some of the tension that they were going for. Occasionally, in say about five or six scenes, the movie goes for a shot of exposed organs and ripped off heads. More than your average science fiction movie. It sort of jolts you a tad, even if they are brief and not always completely realistic.

And what almost works is the acting. Gail Sheldon and Stephen Amell, obstensibly the two leads, are effective enough to make their scenes work. On the other end, though, several of the other actors suffer from time to time (begging the question: is it better to be consistently low or only occasionally?). The medical specialist kind of drifts in and around an accent while the opportunist misses the maniacal mark and aims for mildly manic instead. And as for the one character whose catchphase is "Unreal", there was a lot they could have done with her but very little they actually did. Another almost-worker is the CG which feels as though it separates from out of the background in a few spots (and a couple of the more dramatic ones, alas) but overall gets the point across and, in my opinion, actually works better than some of the blue-screen attempts in the first one.

What's the final verdict? I am going to place this one in the mediocre zone of Eh. Watchable. Even enjoyable. Ultimately held back from some flaws. If we were in a place where Hollywood was putting out reasonable SF on a regular basis, it would probably be a step further down. It is not Blech by any stretch. Probably best served with beer and popcorn, mind you. I say only buy it if you love SF b-movies or are going, like me, for a completist PKD-adaptation collection, but it should be at least worth a "Saturday night with friends" rental.

Written by W Doug Bolden

For those wishing to get in touch, you can contact me in a number of ways

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The longer, fuller version of this text can be found on my FAQ: "Can I Use Something I Found on the Site?".

"The hidden is greater than the seen."