screamers: the (other) bastard child of dr Moreau

this was a movie…absolutely. was a movie.

on a sort-of-related note, why have no adaptations save the 1930’s version, ever managed to do Dr. Moreau justice

Listen, I know that Amazon is a soulless conglomerate hell-bent on mistreating and underpaying their employees and basically using slave labor to deliver fast two-day shipping to us who thrive on instant gratification, and by no means am I a fan of the company, but I was actually pleasantly surprised at the hefty amount of shitty, campy 80’s horror in it’s library. Does that warrant the 119 dollars a year for amazon prime?…honestly, maybe.

So one of my favorite things on amazon prime video are the little movie blurbs, and it was how I found this masterpiece.

The fake plot

It begins with a bunch of rich white people, specifically Lord Byron Bunnington (that’s not his name but he has a fancy cane and a mustache and a tophat so it really should be that tbh) and his equally fancy wife, looking for fabled treasure in the easiest way possible; no shit, they just walk into this random cave in the middle of nowhere, and find some gold. Then they are attacked by skeletal zombies—literal bones of the living dead, presumably for stealing the treasure.

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Anyway, this is a movie about mutated fish men, so of course, the opening with the flesh-skeletons doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of it.

The actual plot

The down and dirty is that a hot lieutenant, Claude De Ross, is shipwrecked with some nasty nasty men (they’re prisoners) when the boat carrying some convicts bites it. They find themselves on a little island somewhere in the Caribbean, with a beautiful girl who seems like she’s stoned off her gourd in every scene, Amanda Marvin (played by Barbara Bach) and the snooty, gold-digging once-removed cousin of Dr. Moreau, Edmond Rackham.

Also in this are some black people who do not speak and look vaguely threatening to our white ‘protagonists’, and my favorite character, the Voodoo priestess named Shakira.

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On the island, they are attacked by men in clunky sui—er, I mean the evil and scary frog-men that are controlled by Rackham via some white liquid that they are addicted to. I’m pretty sure it’s milk.

 

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The good doctor tells the lieutenant that they have managed to discover the lost city of Atlantis; and that the mutant horrific fish men are actually descendants of the original inhabitants of the underwater city.

In reality, the fish men are experiments of Ernest Marvin, biologist, as a way to…you know what I don’t actually remember, as a way to genetically breed a new, stronger race of amphibian-men? Like, if they set it in the modern age of 1979 when it was filmed, I think maybe the coming global warming and rising waters of climate change could’ve actually been a valid argument for turning your neighbors part fish. But what do I know.

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I love one (1) man.

Fighting happens, Shakira Shakira gets shot, Rackham is killed by the fish people and Claude and Amanda kick it Titanic style, but unlike that weak-ass bitch Leonardo Dicaprio, they float on a piece of broken boat together, until they pass a ship and are saved.

Thoughts on this bastard of a knockoff

The Island of Dr. Moreau is one of my favorite H.G. Wells’ tales, right up there with War of the Worlds, and I don’t think that any film adaptation out there can do it any sort of justice. The inherent horror of a man going to such lengths and claiming it is in the name of science, when it is actually their incessant, narcissistic need to play god, is always underscored by some goofy ass 80’s synth pop, or a love story, or ridiculous costumes, and Screamers doesn’t manage to add anything new or fun to the Dr. Moreau tale.

This was very much an 80’s movie, and not even one with a fun antagonist or even good enough acting to make it stand out against the hundreds of other cheap, campy horror that came out during that time; it was kind of boring in some parts, and one of my main gripes with it was that it relied on outdated, racist tropes about black people, and specifically black Carribbean people who practice their religion.

I don’t know much about Voodoo, but it seemed like the directors just slapped a scorpion and some bones onto a pile of burning cinders, and were like ‘yeah that’s basically what we think voodoo is alright Jerry lets get this into post’, and seeing the juxtaposition in the ‘valiant’ white actors vs the stoic, angry and silent black actors was…ew. Bad.

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Also, I guess none of the indigenious people that inhabited the island had anything to say about the white dudes that showed up, killed a whole bunch of their people and forced them into a life of servitude and bondage, and turned their family into mutated fish? No feelings on that, because I guess the black people are so stupid and servile that they wouldn’t think of fighting back against two old-ass men? Alright.

To be honest, this isn’t even the best movie about scientifically modified killer fishermen attacking people out there; I think that Humanoids From the Deep can claim that one, and I thought that was way way to rape-y and hate crime-y for my taste. But, in the battle of the fish-men it wins, because 1. the ending was enough to make me, a fairly seasoned horror vet, recoil in disgust and 2. I mean look at the fucking name alone. humanoids from the deep rolls of the tongue. What does screamers even have to do with the movie about evil fish-men? In the Italian release, it was actually titled ‘Island of the Fishmen’, and, in my expert opinion, they should’ve kept it as that.

The one thing they got right for this thing was the French release poster, cause it looks dope as all hell

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