I’m sure you’ve already heard about Scanners, an ambitious Canadian horror movie that spawned two sequels and two spin-offs. Directed by David Cronenberg (A History of Violence, The Fly, Naked Lunch) this is now a cult classic. And also a movie that launched his career and got him out of the low-budget movie section and into an experimental horror department (but with a budget).
It will also be remembered as the start of the career of Michael Ironside, a lovable bad guy with an interesting scar by his eye. He got it by going through a plate glass door while drunk. As he felt it could help him get interesting roles, he never had plastic surgery to correct it. Ironside plays Revok here, an insane scanner with destruction in his mind.
One of the things that everybody will talk about when you mention Scanners is the infamous head explosion. For fuck’s sake, the scene is a meme now. And yes it looked cool and was relatively groundbreaking for that period, and that’s it. If you have seen this movie while in your teens, I bet that you tried to scan someone immediately after it was over. I remember going around the house trying to freak people out with my powers. I guess it worked since I stared at them with a crazed look in my eyes.
While the general idea and the story are excellent and very creative the same cannot be said about the script. It’s pretty basic and even flat-out dumb at times. While Patrick McGoohan and Michael Ironside were brilliant in their roles, the rest of the cast is pretty lame, especially our hero Stephen Lack (Lack for lacking acting skills). He looks like a moron with two brain cells, one for walking and the other for talking. And they cannot be active simultaneously. I’m just kidding Stephen, you know I love ya.
Welcome to a world where a new species of humans exists, called Scanners. With a special ability to take control of another person’s central nervous system, they are extremely powerful. Dr Ruth of the Consec corporation believed that they are the key to great things, and he lead the research on them. With one scanner actually working with him, Ruth is ready to present his work to the public. However, this will soon turn into a bloodbath…
A world was a different place in the early eighties than it is now. It was much easier to believe that if not exactly the things you saw in the movie theater but then some variation of them is possible. The world was a bit more esoteric for the lack of a better term. So, Scanners was a much more impactful horror movie by that standard. After thirty years of all kinds of movies and the advent of the Internet, we’re kind of desensitized now. Hence the whole exploding head meme thing.
This means that the movie might not be the mind-blowing experience you were hoping it was going to be. So, temper your expectations, immerse yourself in the world Cronenberg created and be on the lookout for the next nasty scene.
Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: David Cronenberg
Cast: Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane, Michael Ironside
Fun Facts: Making the movie was a frustrating experience for Cronenberg. Filming had to begin without a finished script and end within roughly two months plus there was some bickering between the two leads.