A Screaming Good Little Movie

November 3, 2016

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In 1995, a SciFi movie was released called Screamers. It is great Science Fiction. A lot of fans like to call this a “little” movie, to give it an underdog story. However, it’s $20 Million budget is rather respectable for the time, so I consider it a Triple-A release, versus B-movie status. Good acting combined with putting the budget money exactly where it needs to go made this movie very nice. It’s got a great concept, has a great setting (well, multiple settings), great acting, and it doesn’t feel like it wastes any of its scenes. Bonus points go to the movie for sticking to stop-motion animation effects instead of the fledgling CGI that was becoming popular at the time of this movie’s release. Not everything needs to be a cut-rate Jurassic Park.

The story is based on a Philip K. Dick short story, and is basically about autonomous robots named “Screamers”, which scream when destroying a living being. They were developed by one side of a conflict when the other side started to use nuclear weapons to get their point across. The thing is, these “Screamers” were given AI and programming to scavenge and self-improve. They were then left to their own “devices” (har har) for about 5  years. Something interesting starts to develop during that time, and that is where this movie comes in. Wall-E these Screamers are NOT!

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I bring it up, because I think it is high-time that Hollywood consider remaking this classic, and I think it is a great candidate for my idea of a low-budget, sci-fi horror movie.

My thoughts were confirmed when I found a site where an artist describes being commissioned to whip up some concept paintings of a more contemporary setting for a new “Screamers” movie reboot. “Contemporary, Scary, Earthbound, Low Budget”; these are the concepts that would make this a great reboot. They could borrow a lot of concepts not just from the Screamers movie, but I imagine they could also use concepts from other movies, such as the Terminator movies, the Resident Evil movies, the Puppetmaster movies, and all those low-budget 80s scifi movies that are obvious precursors to the Screamers movie.

The movie should start out with more than a simple crawl or narration. Show us the events that lead up to the development of the Screamers. There is plenty of drama and techno-wizardry to be found there. For instance, are Screamers an extension of the warfighting robots created to hunt down and flush out terrorists hiding in mountain caves? Were they originally designed to cut down illegal crops in the War on Drugs? Were they a privately-developed AI project that spun dangerously out-of-control? These are fascinating possibilities that can be used to introduce a brand new audience to the concept of Screamers, without messing with the original movie at all.

The legacy of the live-action Transformers movies shows that CGI can now be used for realistic mechanical animations that can be integrated seamlessly into live-action footage, so Screamers can make use of modern technology to make the effects stand up to modern scrutiny. Furthermore, if you can get an animation crew on board that loves the original movie, you can “recreate” some of the stop-motion-style animation in the CGI, to give it a look-back, nostalgic quality that calls back to the original “Screamers” movie.

It has just so much potential, and could be developed with a small budget to create a nice, low-budget franchise that is bound to make money, even if the new movies are relatively unpopular. By the time such a movie is developed and released, it will have been one full generation (25 years) since the original movie, so it will still seem fresh, while being able to pull concepts from an existing, beloved franchise.

The concept is also “survivable” to multiple movies, no matter how much the “good guys” win and obliterate the “Screamer” threat. From copycat recreations, to the “last survivor” from the original movie plot, to different settings and locales, to different AI-driven “self-sustaining” plotlines, the concept of “Screamers” can take place in almost any modern, post-modern, or futuristic timeframe.

Of course, filmmakers keen on remaking “Screamers” are well-advised to use simple low-budget tricks to keep their “monster” hidden as much as possible, and to use detail to show the audience any part of the “Screamer” threat. Of course, the more you can keep it hidden, and the longer you keep it secret, the better. On the other hand, it is no good to never let us see the threat at all, by never making the movies. That would be a sad misstep.

 

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