Screamers (1995): C
Based on the Philip K. Dick story “Second Variety,” this movie kind of shows how Karl Marx was pretty good at predicting the evolution of capitalism but not very good at predicting the evolution of killer androids.
When the biggest intergalactic corporation in existence finds a new radioactive minable energy source to replace fossil fuels, everything’s great and they totally get some poor schmucks on an obscure planet to mine it for them. When studies reveal that it’s hella poisonous and it is responsible for massive fatalities, the corporation does exactly what you would expect: they stop mining the highly profitable material, responsibly compensate the families of the dead, and they give everyone hugs and kisses…
The corporation suppresses the truth and wants more, more, more, mining! “Civil war” breaks out between the corporate bosses and their “Alliance” of workers who refuse to die working the mines, and just like how ol’ Marx predicted, the capitalists dispatch military forces to keep the exploitation of the working class going; if you don’t work in the toxic mines, goons will bust a cap in you. This conflict matures and basically turns everyone on the planet into a soldier.
Added into the equation are robots created by the workers which are programmed to slaughter the corporate sponsored soldiers. They are called Screamers because of the sound they make as they fly through the air and chop motherfuckers. The Screamers’ AI becomes self aware and they decide that their mission should not be to chop corporate motherfuckers, but instead be to self-replicate and kill all humans, even their Alliance creators. They evolve into different “species” of Screamers that the humans are unprepared to combat including ones that look/act exactly like people. Ironically, Robocop is the head of the Alliance forces.
CGI is really bad, but it’s the 90’s, so get over it, I guess. Lots of funny kills and robot antics. One of them quotes Shakespeare. There are some cool philosophical undertones that touch on themes common in Dick’s work such as technology turning on / mimicking humans, perpetual human conflict beyond the planet Earth, and robots go boom. It’s got the isolation/paranoia aspect of The Thing and the corporation is the bad guy like in the Alien movies. All in all pretty fun and totally 90’s.
Evolver (1995): C
Another VHS gem that I scored for 99 cents. The guy who directed this movie, which should basically be called “What if Johnny-5 from Short Circuit Wanted to Kill Us All?” went on to direct some abysmal Hillary Duff movies that blow worse than this. I watched like one minute of the trailer for one, so I can stand behind the preceding statement. Evolver’s plot could actually be the plot of a children’s movie and work just fine.
A nerdy, friendless computer geek uses his hacking skills to win at a laser tag videogame and he scores a free robot (Evolver) with whom to play laser tag-like games with in real life. He never saw Weird Science so he didn’t know that hacking leads to abominations of technology. The robot looks just like Johnny-5 only clunkier and shittier to fit this clunkier, shittier film. Each time the robot is defeated, it used super-advanced AI to “evolve” and deduce the vulnerabilities of its opponents so it can hopefully exploit weaknesses and win the next round of game play, kind of like an ex-girlfriend.
Evolver is programmed to never lose, so it starts using weapons to murder the children who try to play with it, believing this is the only way to truly “win.” Some weapons are improvised while others have been inside of Evolver all along including a flamethrower and some serious hydraulics. This results in some hilarious B-movie kills as Evolver starts assuming every person with whom it comes into contact is an “opponent”. There is always some monotone robotic narration preceding the kill. My favorite is when a jock gets a metal ball shot through his skull at 100mph while he fucks with Evolver in the locker room.
Maybe you are wondering why the robot, that some nerd won because he’s a nerd, has super-advanced artificial intelligence, sci-fi style weapons systems, and homicidal programming. After you have been wondering that for most of the movie, the little boy computer nerd starts wondering too and goes to the Cyberdynesque company called Cybertronix that created Evolver. Turns out, there is no conspiracy, just human incompetence. The super-powerful killer robot was just an accident. “Okay, thanks!” the nerd basically says and then he goes home to battle Evolver.
Then there are lasers and a final battle. The kid does the Fistful of Dollars trick. There is some very physics-defying destruction and an abrupt end. This movie reeks of 1990’s clichés, so prepare yourself; cowabunga, dude. All in all pretty entertaining.