Film / Screamers

Screamers is a 1995 Sci-Fi Horror film based off of the Philip K. Dick story "Second Variety".

The film is set on the planet Sirius 6B in the year 2078. Sirius B was the source of energy, however, the hazardous working conditions led to a war between the New Economic Block, and their former employees The Alliance. While on Earth, there was a tense peace between the NEB and Alliance, on Sirius B, the war went nuclear. Eventually, the Alliance introduced "screamers", a series of subterranean killing machines, which replicate themselves ad infinitum in an automated factory. The war eventually ruined the planet, leaving only a handful of Alliance and NEB strongholds intact. As it turns out, Earth had long since abandoned Sirius B, with the soldiers fighting for control of a ruined planet.

As Hendrickson, the Alliance's leader on Sirius 6B, heads out to discuss a peace treaty with the NEB General, it is revealed that the screamers have changed; building newer models. They can pass for human, and soon, no one is safe.

A direct-to-video sequel, Screamers: The Hunting, released in 2009 features a group of Alliance Marines sent from Earth to Sirius 6B to investigate a distress signal. It had been over a decade since last contact from the planet, and hey, the screamers thought to be dormant. What could possibly go wrong?

Not to be confused with the obnoxious Jump Scare Shock Sites you see floating around the internet as Schmuck Bait.


  • Adaptation Distillation: The original short story takes place on a post-apocalyptic earth with an escalated cold war being the backstory. The movie replaces this with a colony world run by Corrupt Corporate Executives. The story itself is largely unchanged. Even the endings have similarities;
    • In "Second Variety", it's a Bittersweet Ending; the "claws", having evolved enough that They Look Like Us Now, manage to smuggle one of their number onto a space transport so they can wipe out what's left of humanity - the catch is that part of what made them convincing was that they were capable of killing other claws, which leaves the protagonist grimly satisfied; humanity is finished, but the screamers will kill themselves off in the same manner, as they are Not So Different.
    • In Screamers, it's Zig-Zagged. The Type V screamers have evolved so that they can "smile, cry, bleed, fuck" - which enables the a Type V-Jessica to come within moments of hijacking the space transport to Earth. However, Jessica has become human enough to not want to kill humans anymore, and sacrifices herself to save Hendrickson from one of her duplicates. Averted in that it turns out the teddy bears carried by Type III's are also screamers, and Hendrickson not only brought one onto the transport but took his Tab off...
  • Adaptation Expansion: a lot more scenes and characters are added.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The Screamers were designed to kill humans in the first place, but they weren't supposed to attack Alliance troops, or to develop new forms that resembled humans.
  • Artistic License Nuclear Physics: This little gem - "Cubic tons of radiation."
  • Becoming the Mask: Jessica is a screamer, but she defends Hendrickson from another Jessica, to allow him to escape to Earth.
  • Catch Phrase: Type III's repeat a single phrase because "they can't think of anything better to say."
  • Creepy Child: The "Can I come with you?" boy who turns out to be a Killer Robot, after this fact is revealed.
  • Cyborg: Type V's. Jessica turns out to be one of the last models, designed to have both biological and mechanical components. It's to the point that she's as empathetic as a human being and saves the hero from another copy of her line.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: The film ends with a shot of a teddy bear in the back of the one-man spacecraft used by the protagonist to escape the planet. The teddy bear is the type previously seen carried by the Creepy Child Killer Robot. Just before the movie ends we see Hendrickson rip off his Tab in disgust and fling it away, landing next to the teddy bear, which starts to move of its own accord.
  • Death World: The colony world Sirius B has become a wasteland due to an apocalyptic war between two different factions who completely destroyed each other. Near the end they release armies of self-evolving killer robots which kill indiscriminately, making the entire planet pretty much uninhabitable. Even venturing outside the few remaining bunkers is viewed as a Suicide Mission.
  • Deliberately Cute Child: The Type III is designed to play on a soldier's sympathy, so he'll take it into a sealed bunker.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Between two of the same woman no less.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Mostly everyone dies. And the teddy bear is a screamer. Though if one is familiar with the short story in the scene where "David" screamers pour out of the bunker, the teddy bears moved by themselves but got blown to bits before they could get to the main protagonists, the twist does not come as a surprise. And the ending of the short story is even darker.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The last survivor escapes the planet after a number of horrifying revelations (and gruesome deaths), yanks off his Tab and falls asleep, safe at last... turns out, the teddy bear he kept as a souvenir is also a Screamer.
  • Everybody Smokes: Anti-radiation medication is delivered via red-colored cigarettes. Thus, lots of people smoke.
  • Evil Overlooker: the cover of The Hunting.
  • Forever War: The two sides have all but obliterated each other and forgot to tell the characters in the movie. Made even worse by the fact that the general they've been receiving orders from back on Earth is already dead.
  • Glad He's on Our Side: In reference to the first generation of Screamers, which hunt targets by burrowing through the ground: "I'm glad those things are on our side."
  • Gone Horribly Right: The Screamers were made to kill humans. And they're just getting better and better at it.
  • Gorn: There's a very large amount of blood and gore in The Hunting.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: Becker, after getting shot by Hendrickson.
  • Hologram Projection Imperfection: The protagonists have to report a cease fire proposed by the enemy forces. A pair of doors slide open and their superior walks through and starts talking to them — all appears normal until he suddenly starts to fizz and sputter and the protagonists complain about the unreliability of holographic projection from Earth. The scene hints at The Reveal that the Projected Man is actually dead.
  • Impostor Exposing Test: The protagonist cuts a female soldier to ensure she's not one of the increasingly advanced killer robots. Turns out the latest models can bleed too.
  • Invisibility Cloak: The "tabs" alliance members wear makes them invisible to screamers. Until the screamers start updating themselves...
  • Killer Rabbit: The child screamer. And possibly the teddy bear.
  • Killer Robot: The screamers were designed to be the perfect soldier. They proved to be a little too perfect.
  • Killer Teddy Bear: Killer robots looking like little boys, carrying killer robot teddy bears.
  • Knife Nut: Becker, who also uses it as a throwing weapon to kill a suspected Screamer.
  • Lightning Gun: In the sequel.
  • Lost in Transmission: Played straight.
    There's a new kind of screamer. Do not let it into the perimeter, over.
    I missed that last part, over... (static)
  • Mechanical Evolution: Just as in the original Second Variety. The Screamers were designed as self-evolving killer robots, and newer generations even take on human appearance. Eventually the Type V generation (Jessica) has both a mostly human biology and experiences human emotions, and saves Hendricksen from one of her evil counterparts.
  • Mistaken for an Imposter: One character argues that another one is a screamer, and then tosses a knife through his chest. It then turns out Becker was the real imposter, invoking this trope.
  • Nightmare Face:
  • Not His Sled: The film, which was based on "Second Variety" by Dick, retains the original surprise ending that the woman the hero met and bonded with is one of the robot decoys, but changes it so she has broken her programming and isn't out to kill humans. It further departs from the original ending by having her "dying" and putting the hero safely on the shuttle to Earth in a happy Hollywood ending...until it reveals that the teddy bear the hero kept as a souvenir is another deadly robot decoy. The direct-to-video sequel briefly mentions the first film's protagonist choosing to destroy his ship rather than allow the teddy bear to get to Earth, although it's difficult to imagine a single killer robot being able to wipe out the human race without the means to make more of itself.
  • Numbered Homeworld: The film is set on a planet called Sirius B.
  • Protective Charm: The "tabs" worn by Alliance soldiers. Notably, as they operate by cancelling out the sound of the wearer's heartbeat, they only work on the basic and Type-I screamers; the humanoid screamers can identify a human target just fine, tab or no. Hendricksson is implied to doom himself in the end by yanking off his tab in disgust once he leaves the planet; without it, the teddy bear screamer in the shuttle with him identifies him as a target and starts moving...
  • Recursive Creators: The Screamers started building new generations of models themselves after they were originally created by human soldiers.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: The latest model of "Swords". One of them falls in love with the hero and fights so that he can escape the planet.
  • Robosexual: At the end, the protagonist Hendricksson realizes that Jessica is also a Killer Robot when an identical Jessica shows up. Earlier he'd tested Jessica by cutting her hand and the copy appears to know this, taunting Hendricksson by saying: "We can bleed, we can cry, we can fuck."
  • Robotic Reveal: The humanoid Screamers successfully infiltrate human camps before they're revealed. There are so many new generations that the protagonist eventually has trouble believing that anyone besides him is even human. In fact, he visits the enemy camp (dwindled down to three remaining soldiers) and the soldier who is killed under suspicion of being a Screamer turns out to be the only one of the three who wasn't a robot.
  • Robot War: For years the war between the New Economic Block and the Alliance has been fought by self-evolving robotic soldiers. The few survivors are holed up in their bunkers because the entire planet has become a death zone.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The sequel has an offscreen mention of the protagonist of the original dying to prevent the screamer from reaching Earth..
  • Smoking Is Cool: The film made smoking a plot point: the drug that helped counter the radiation of the planet was administered via cigarette.
  • They Look Like Us Now: In the original, there were Type IIs and IVs, which pretended to be wounded soldiers, and Type IIIs, which mimicked orphaned children. And Jessica. The sequel adds even more variety.
  • Toxic Phlebotinum: The process of mining 'Berynium' releases hazardous radiation, which is the root of the conflict between the Alliance and N.E.B. This has no plot significance beyond the movie's prologue and general setting.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The sequel provides couple instances.
    • There is no mention of the N.E.B. and conversation in general gives the impression that Alliance is the governing body of Earth. Particularly puzzling since the first film established that the N.E.B. (who were in a state of Cold War with the Alliance) was not stymied by the loss of Sirius B and moved on to a new planet where they found Berynium deposits.
    • The identity and fate of the group that sent the distress signal is also left unexplained. Two of them get killed and one of them manages to barricade himself in the communication array and send the distress signal. However, the rescue team never makes it there. All we can determine is that they were not affiliated with the survivors at the refinery (who were unfamiliar with a distress call and disbelieved the rescue team when they mentioned it) or Orsow (who stated that he does not wish anyone leaving the planet for fear of spreading the Screamers).
  • Wormsign: The first model of Screamers are a type of subterranean killing machines.