Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: David Cronenberg
Starring: Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Michael Ironside
Review By: Griff
One thing that they loved to do in the early 80’s is make a guys head explode. If your horror movie didn’t have an exploding head then it wasn’t a horror movie. Probably two of the finest examples of this are Maniac (1980) (previously reviewed by yours truly) and todays film, Scanners. This film is pretty well known for aforementioned exploding head scene. In fact I am sure there are a lot of people out there who have seen the head go pop and have never seen the whole film.
Scanners is about a group of “special” people that have ability to scan and control other peoples minds. Cameron Vale (Lack) is a particularly powerful scanner who lives a tortured life. He doesn’t know how to control his power and is constantly overwhelmed by hearing other peoples thoughts to the point of it being maddening. After Cameron has a really bad episode at the mall he is abducted by a company called ConSec that has been trying to weaponize the Scanners. Dr. Paul Ruth (Cameron) is the head of the Scanners project and he helps Cameron control the maddening voices in his head. Cameron soon forms a bond with Dr. Ruth and stops resisting his captors.
Trying to stop ConSec is Darryl Revok (Ironside) a renegade scanner who also possess abilities greater than normal scanners. Revok sneaks into a press conference that ConSec is holding and causes some considerable mayhem when explodes another scanners head during a presentation. After the incident the board members of ConSec would like to shut down the scanners project but Dr. Ruth comes up with a plan to use Cameron as a spy to infiltrate the scanner underground and weed out Revok. Ruth helps train Cameron to control his powers and sends him out to locate Revok. Along the way Cameron discovers the truth about his past and uncovers the secret behind Revok’s master plan.
Scanners is an interesting early effort from Cronenberg. (He followed this up with Videodrome.) It definitely has enough plot twists to keep people guessing and it featured some pretty radical special effects for the time. Where it slips is with the casting of Stephen Lack as Cameron Vale. His acting is so bad it’s almost laughable and it makes it difficult to take this movie seriously. There are also some huge leaps of faith with the plot that will definitely leave you scratching your head. Still, Scanners is good campy fun and if you are a fan of the horror genre this is required viewing. Scanner gets 2 guys out of 3 from me.