Scanners Review, A Brilliant yet Unrealized Classic



Directed by: David Cronenberg

Starring: Jennifer O’NeillStephen LackPatrick McGoohanLawrence Dane, and Michael Ironside

Scanners will go do in history as being that movie with the exploding head. People have said to me, “Why would I watch that I’ve already seen that guys head burst”. To me that seems a little ignorant. There is a lot more that this movie has to offer. Cronenberg’s earlier work had a lot of hidden political commentary that goes right past the mind of some of the viewers while some pick up on them right away. Videodrome and The Fly are movies that follow suit with Scanners, a lot more is going on underneath the surfaces that it appears. Scanners will always be infamous for one scene but it has become a classic due to vision of the director and the story that he elects to tell.

Scanners are a chosen few who are gifted with the powers of telepathy and the power to control peoples minds.  A madman by the name of Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside) has gathered a few other scanners and formed a group set on world domination and to wage war against Consec. Little does he know that Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan) has located a fellow scanner named Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack), who is unaware of his powers, to locate the group and destroy it. With the help of Kim Obrist (Jennifer O’Neil), Cameron must stop Revok at any cost.

Quite a few of Cronenberg’s movies are ahead of their time. This one isn’t any different. The special effects used throughout the movie are incredible. Two scenes in particular stand out, one is the aforementioned exploding head scene and the second is the finale where Cameron and Revok try to out “scan” one another. The head exploding scene is great because it is a scene that that wasn’t working at the beginning of shooting. The effects were just not working and by the end of it the decided that one guy would sit behind the latex head with a 12 gauge shotgun and shot the head with kosher rock salt. The scene worked so well that they went with it. The finale scene had various parts where the veins of Cameron and Revok increase in size as they are dueling. Thanks to Dick Smith these effect worked perfectly and is another reason I argue for the use of practical effects over CG everyday.

The movie does have a host of problem but they work within the frame work of the movie. My biggest problem was the main actor. His acting was very wooden and stiff. In a feature Stephen Lack even comments on the fact that his delivery of his line was off. His acting doesn’t really effect the movie that much for me I think it does work for the most part. I can say that Michael Ironside was as chilling an villainous as ever. Like Total Recall his performance makes the villain more intriguing than the movie itself.

On a technical level this movie succeeds in every aspects but for me the finale, though spectacular, is a little underwhelming. I don’t think that it is so much the movies fault rather the rushed production of the film. It is said that the movie began filming before the script was even finished and I feel the ending does reflect that. I think the central theme is perfect and is executed to perfection.

The message behind this movie is timeless. In a whole it is about the dangers of experimenting drugs on people. In the finale we learn that scanners are a product of a pill for pregnant woman back in the 40s. It shows there are dangers to experimenting with drugs that you don’t know the outcome. There is also a reference to Cain and Abel. In the end we learn that Cameron and Revok are brothers and that their father pitted them against each other just so he can stop the creation that he has made. Cronenburg likes to tease the idea that powerful creatures have a tendency to try to create new beings themselves. It is in The Fly, Scanners, and even Videodrome (in some complicity)

Criterion’s presentation is great and probably the best it has looked. The features present are amazing and shows just how much hard work went into making this film. There is one feature showing David Cronenberg in an interview right before the movie was released and it is very interesting to see him talk about the movie before it came out. I love what The Criterion Collection has to offer and this movie is no exception.

If you love horror or just movies in general than definitely check out Scanners and anything that Cronenberg puts out.

Grade: A-


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