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Scanners (1981)

 -  Horror | Sci-Fi  -  14 January 1981 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 27,015 users   Metascore: 60/100
Reviews: 141 user | 105 critic | 8 from

A scientist sends a man with extraordinary psychic powers to hunt others like him.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Cameron Vale (as Steven Lack)
Robert A. Silverman ...
Benjamin Pierce (as Robert Silverman)
Lee Broker ...
Security One
Mavor Moore ...
Adam Ludwig ...
Arno Crostic
Murray Cruchley ...
Programmer 1 (as Lee Murray)
Fred Doederlein ...
Dieter Tautz
Géza Kovács ...
Killer in Record Store (as Geza Kovacs)
Sonny Forbes ...
Killer in Attic (as Sony Forbes)
Jérôme Tiberghien ...
Killer in Attic (as Jerome Tiberghien)
Denis Lacroix ...
Killer in Barn


Darryl Revok is the most powerful of all the scanners, and is the head of the underground scanner movement for world domination. Scanners have great psychic power, strong enough to control minds; they can inflict enormous pain/damage on their victims. Doctor Paul Ruth finds a scanner that Revok hasn't, and converts him to their cause - to destroy the underground movement. Written by Paul Reynolds <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Their thoughts can kill! See more »


Horror | Sci-Fi


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

14 January 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Agyfürkészők  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


CAD 4,100,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Dr. Ruth tells Vale that he founded Biocarbon Amalgamate in 1942. Patrick McGoohan, who plays the Dr. Paul Ruth character, was 14 years old in 1942. See more »


At the very beginning of the final fight between Revok and Cameron, Cameron hits Revok in the head with a statue. When the camera cuts to Revok's face before the statue makes contact, there is already blood on Revok's face where the statue is about to hit. See more »


[last lines]
Cameron Vale: I'm here Kim. We've won, we've won.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Assistant to Mr Heroux ... Kim Obrist Kim Obrist is the name of the lead female character. See more »


Referenced in Electric Dragon 80.000 V (2001) See more »

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User Reviews

rtypically cool, strange Cronenberg kind of horror movie, with a few genuine ideas
3 August 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Scanners will definitely be one of those films I'll check out on a moments notice- if it's on late at night on the sci-fi channel that is. It's a work that sometimes tries for the low-key, and other times goes for the ultra-gory and darkly comic, but it's all pulled off nicely by director David Cronenberg with help from horror make-up legend Dick Smith. It's a story that seems to be just a pure good vs evil thriller, with Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) and Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside), where one doesn't even quite know what he is and how he can hear so many voices at once thinking in unison, and the other kills people by controlling their minds, sometimes to make their heads explode. Yet there's another element thrown in, which has to do with industry and corporations (or rather one corporation) invests interest in making sure a drug called Ephemerol (real drug (?)), to put a control on pregnant women- but it doesn't quite work. This is expanded upon, the more one thinks about it, into the idea of mind-control, and how clarity of the mind works for a scanner (i.e. the scene where the scanners are 'communing' before a shoot-out occurs, psychically linked a bit).

Other ideas start to flow from there, and it's fascinating to see how they fly out in little spurts- if not as strongly as in Naked Lunch or History of Violence- while the carnage goes on. Some of it is just downright delirious; I loved the scene where Keller, by gun-point, makes programmers try to 'turn off' Vale by tapping into the frequency that he's already been trying to jam on the other side through a phone line. Chaos ensues as we see computer chips freak out, Vale's mind goes into a freeze, then he snaps out and comes back with a big wallop that sends the power line crashing down- not too oddly enough right next to a gas station where the pump's become unhinged- and huge explosions start coming out on both ends. Cronenberg has as a sidebar the true perils of technology in dealing with such a concept like telekinesis and taking it a step further into the realm of morality and free-will (as Kim says she did before coming to Com-Sec with Vale). Meanwhile, Cronenberg keeps on with about as many shoot-outs and explosions and mania as a B-movie touched slightly by dementia, and it's usually a sweet ride technically (even if one is certain after a while which of the scanners will love or not, particularly when a van drives alongside the one holding the scanners and bullets ring out).

The big draw, of course, for most viewers are the head explosions. Actually, there's only one, but in a way it's not a bad thing really. I liked that Cronenberg uses gore, not just in the case of Scanners but in the bulk of his work, to illustrate a point (when one hears him in interviews, it's clear he takes ultra gory and horrifically bloody and organ-y violence seriously, unlike many of todays would-be horror directors). And when the head-explosion comes, it's both horrific and, in a perfect way, hilarious. We know something terrible will happen by the near spaghetti-western length drawing out of the scanner match between Redek and the other guy, and when it comes it's akin to when in RoboCop the executive gets killed by the big battle robot- you know it's coming, but it's still the thought and build-up that counts. And bear in mind, as it is Dick Smith, the climax will not disappoint even for the most weathered genre aficionado. While the biggest flaws would be in a few scenes dragging (the dialog from Ruth before his demise chiefly), and Lack's dearth of talent, it's very worthwhile to see even if you're not terribly familiar with the director. It's low-budget and inventive within the bounds of the plot.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Was I the only one that thought the leads acting wasn't bad? collectivevoid
SHOTGUNS - the only gun CylonAgent
The exploding head... funnyguyla
TERRIBLE Acting violentworld
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i loved this movie... wolferian_shadow
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