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Screamers: The Hunting (2009)

by on 2012/11/07

“This is awful.”
“It’s the best we could do.”

* *

Let me be upfront: I wasn’t a particular fan of the original Screamers. It was simultaneously derivative and forgettable.

Oh, how young and innocent I was back then. If only its sequel, The Hunting, had managed to be derivative, it might have stood a chance.

An unlucky group of seven respond to a distress signal from Sirius 6B. They need to locate their target, then return to their spaceship post-haste. In six short days, they expect “a class ten Magellanic storm” . . . exclamation mark.

And, oh yeah, the place is still crawling with robots wanting to saw them to bits.

I’m not especially motivated to reveal the narrative “nuances” any more than some of the cast and crew seemed inclined to do passable work.

The ship, the Medusa, was obviously outfitted by a barber shop supplier. The Sirius bases were indebted to a kitchen store. And the post-apocalyptic refugee miners eking out an existence were among the best groomed I’d seen in similar roles.

At times, I forgot such quirks because the action could be compelling. Despite my having visited the landscapes of Drumheller in Alberta, the exteriors shot there remained convincingly alien. Similarly, the pyrotechnics and many visuals were effective. It all benefited from a speed and momentum born of well-paced editing.

And then it all goes to hell the moment most characters open their mouths. The action slams to an awkward halt, and then clumsily stumbles along. There’s a lifelessness here I’ve rarely seen, even in dubbed CGI. Some actors are clearly doing their best, notably Gina Holden (Blood Ties) and Stephen Amell (Arrow).

(The Quick and the Dead’s Lance Henriksen, however, is the standout in a cameo as the type of reclusive survivor you’ll know from Apocalypse Now or Predators.)

Was it just the acting though? Maybe the screenplay was to blame, too often riddled with cliche’d dialogue, and a pop culture view of the military.

  • “How does a machine evolve?” asks one. “Hope you never have to find out!” says another. Translation: “We don’t know either, so don’t bother asking.”
  • “Fuel cell’s empty!” cries one. “What?” asks the commander. “Drained, empty!” reiterates the first. Translation: the commander’s hard of hearing or a moron.
  • “I don’t have time for this wild speculation!” the same commander snaps, after watching the proof recorded by security cameras. Translation: the commander may also be blind, but he’s probably confirmed the moron suspicion.
  • “I’ll take you to [my people]” offers a colonist, “but then you’re on your own.” Do I need to point out the contradiction here?

If there was any potential, it was nearly completely squandered, poorly executed by most participants. Even in theory, Screamers: The Hunting is relentlessly generic, doing pretty much everything by-the-numbers. It would never have been exceptional and yet, with a bit more care, it might have been solid, perhaps exemplary.

But it didn’t, and it’s not, so set your sights on something else.

* *

Rated 14A

95 minutes

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