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Well, were to begin?
First off, when I first saw Scanners, it really didn't do that much for me. Nowadays, I've learnt to view the film through more enlightened eyes, and appreciate it for the masterpiece that is most rightfully is.
Apart from the much-lauded 'exploding head' scene (which could have used a little more blood spattering everywhere) one of the film's most chilling scenes is at the very beginning when the lead character, Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) causes a woman to have a fit in a shopping mall before being captured by a pair of heavies. The scene was so convincingly played out that it really shock me up.
The more interesting aspect is the fact that most of these 'scanners'(or telepathic curiosities as the CEO of Consec calls them) are usually forced to live on the fringes of society as their telekinetic powers are feared and misunderstood by many. It would seem that the director, David Cronenberg, was using this plot device as a metaphor to comment on society's prejudicial attitudes towards the mentally ill. Like many of his low-budget horror films right up to 'The Fly' (1986) 'Scanners' has a very subversive, fly-on-the-wall take on society's ills. The modern society portrayed in 'Scanners' is a world viewed through the eyes of the outcast.
Throughout the film, there is a general feeling of starkness, from the synthesiser-tinged score by Howard Shore, to the general sparse look of the film. This gives the viewer a rather apt feeling of coldness and isolation.
Michael Ironside steals the show as the unhinged renegade scanner, Darryl Revok, who has a vast army of scanner converts at his disposal ready and willing to annihilate anyone unfortunate enough to stand in their way.
The only down side, however is the casting of Stephen Lack as Cameron Vale. Although he makes a fairly decent effort of playing his part, Lack just doesn't seem to have that much-needed 'spark' to bring his character to life.
All in all, 'Scanners' comes highly recommended as a 'must-see' feature.
Scanners is Cronenberg's venture into telepathy and the strange
workings of the mind(he seems to do one movie on each theme, doesn't
he?) While it is not as good as many of his other movies, it's still
First of all, the effects are really good. Some shots easily beat what the best CGI can do today, and some are just plain sick(you'll jump, I promise you). I was actually scratching my head over some things, thinking "how did they do that?", which is a good measure of special effects skills.
Second, the atmosphere is very powerful. It's a dark and unknown world in here, and no-one living in it likes it at all. The characters are all slightly off colour, subnormal. Our hero is no exception. The unknown Stephen Lack does a good-enough job, what with all the grimacing and psycho-playing. The supporting cast is over all sufficient. A treat is, as usual, Michael Ironside, who gives his pretty simple character a nice edge and a personality.
As for the story, it's sometimes hard to follow, and sometimes it lacks something. The ending is a bit rushed as well(even though the climax is incredible).
Still, Scanners is a cult movie and if you can find time, and you're in the right mood, it's certainly worthwhile for it's innovative gore, moody atmosphere and Michael Ironside.
Scanners (1981) was another one of David Cronenberg's "body in revolt"
films. This one deals with people that have telepathic and telekinetic
abilities. Not your average horror film because it's quite heady.
That's what I like about Cronenberg, not only does he make great
psychological horror/thrillers but he makes you think. Nothing is spoon
feed to you. The splatter effects have given this movie it's much
deserved place in one of the best horror set pieces ever made. Two
scenes stand out the most. After watching this film you'll understand
why gore hounds love this movie.
The only part of this movie that I would have changed would have been the lead. Mr. Lack was okay but I felt that Cronenberg could have found an actor with more experience. Michael Ironside was chilling, ice ran through his veins. This movie made his career as a movie heavy. Jennifer O'Neill was nice to look at and fit in well. A strong storyline and good directing made this one a must see.
I was very impressed with this movie. The soundtrack was apt for the movie.
I haven't watch this film in awhile. But after seeing it on D.V.D. recently, I'm still a big fan of Scanners. Sadly I'm not too fond of the sequels.
If you love heady horror films this is a must see.
After a renegade scanner named Revok (a mutant human with advanced
mental powers) causes another man's head to explode, he is hunted by a
second scanner hired by a semi-secret scientific organization.
Meanwhile, other scanners are picked off one by one, and the hunter is
left with great moral and existential questions -- where did he come
from, what is his purpose and is there a right or wrong side in this
Director David Cronenberg can seemingly do no wrong. As I watch one film after another of his, I wait to find one that is the pock mark on the perfect career. Some of his films (such as "Rabid" or perhaps "Stereo") may be of less quality than others, but I have yet to find one that is outright bad. "Scanners", for the record, ranks among his best and has become a cultural staple.
You know you are a culturally important film when you are referenced by "Wayne's World". But seriously, this film is a science fiction story that -- like many science fiction stories -- holds some greater cultural and moral issues worth investigating.
The issue of racism is here. Like the recent "X-Men" movies, and many other films, the idea of someone who is different in a superficial way (scanners look like ordinary humans) and is rejected raises the point that we as a society need to accept those who are not like us. Racism stinks, whether it appear in its purest form (skin color) or through religion or other means. And that is what makes this film so clever: the main character is a hero, but yet he is the outcast -- in some ways we see him as being more human than those who would have him killed.
This also happens to be a film that focuses on one of Cronenberg's strong points: his love of science. Or perhaps science gone wrong, if you will. Does any other director really tackle this as effectively as Cronenberg? I don't think so. (Imagine what would happen if he started making a series of Philip K. Dick novels into films.)
I suppose I did not really get into the film itself so much, but the beauty of the film is that what you take away from it if you view it critically is so much more than the plot or effects or lighting. Yes, you have a great cast (isn't Michael Ironside creepy?) and a head explodes. Yes, you have gun fights and mind control. Even a little bit of romance (but only just a pinch, nothing like a Goldblum-Davis connection in this one).
If you cannot tell, I want you to see this movie. If you're the type of person I am, you'll find this movie so smooth and refreshing on your mental palette that the film ends before you've even realized it began -- the sign of a really great film (or a really short one, which this isn't). Give it a chance, you'll like it.
A common aspect of most great films is that they take time to sink in.
Into their audience and into culture. Upon seeing a good film an
audience will often know whether they've liked it or not, but what they
won't know is quite why. That is what takes time to sink in. As a film
is thought about and even seen again once or twice does it become
great. It is the basic test of time that all classics must pass in
order to achieve that honored status. The term "instant-classic" has
always been a marketing gimmick since if you can take in the whole of a
film instantly it means that it didn't offer a lot and isn't as good as
it could have been.
David Cronenberg's films are those films that you have to see more than once. Many people today don't get that that's where the fun of a good story is: it's not a quick fix of special effects, but rather something that grows on you. Even if you end up not liking the film, the thinking about it and possibly re-seeing it will tell you WHY. Today many people don't care to go that far and just settle on eye candy. Nothing is wrong with eye candy, but when your mother told you to eat your vegetables, she wasn't just talking about food.
"Scanners" is not just a great film that was ahead of its time when it came out, it is a great director's first conceptual masterpiece. Cronenberg showed much promise with his early works, but he was clearly on the learning curve. With "Scanners" he make use of bigger sets, more expansive special effects all while presenting a frightening aspect of ever developing computer technology in an interesting story. The kicker is that most of what the film presents is relevant in more ways than one to today's world. Maybe not quite word for word, but this film is quite prophetic and a science fiction classic. --- 9/10
Rated R for violence and gore. Ages 13+
Scanners is a film about a group of human mutants that are able to basically make people go mad, and finally they can make their minds actually explode. Supposedly created out of the scientific work of a scientist working on a product for pregnant women(or something like that), the scanners(as they are called) are divided into two factions. One is out to destroy all other scanners and the other works for the labs that created them. This is an intensely philosophical film filled with many thought-provoking questions and issues. Director David Cronenberg again uses the idea of the human body in an aberrated state as the focus for terror. He directs with style and suspense, and uses a lot more gore in this than most of his previous features. Don't let that keep you from seeing this film. the acting is solid all around with Stephen Lack giving a nice performance in the lead, and Michael Ironsides giving yet another chilling performance of dementia. He sure can play one sick and crazy guy! Patrick McGoohan plays the fatherly scientist with style and finesse. One of Cronenberg's best!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In 1980, our understanding of our own world as we continued to look to
the stars was beginning to look rather incomplete. Nowhere is this more
apparent today as in the field of neuroscience and mental health, where
so-called charities are hard at work trying to convince people they are
diseased when they really have more in common with the likes of
Einstein or Spielberg. I say this because it has suddenly become trendy
to make films that proclaim to explore the daily life difficulties of
people who share this divergence, yet they are all flawed in one
manner. By trying so hard to dramatise and commercialise something the
makers have no understanding of, they create caricatures that are
ridiculous and insulting. Much of my own video work concerns the fact
that when films do get it right, they do so entirely by accident. Blade
Runner was one such film. Scanners, David Cronenberg's first film to
gain an international release (and at the time when home video was
becoming a reality), is another.
Scanners is set in a contemporary time, not wishing to make any odd predictions about our future. The only clues to the time in which the story takes place are historical references to the development of a synthetic hormone given to women during the gestational period. This drug is overtly designed to calm or sedate the women in question, but it has the effect of altering the neurology of their children. Said children grow up with the thoughts of every individual around them echoing in their heads until a point is reached where they break down. One such individual, we see as an adult named Cameron Vale. After hearing the thoughts of a woman repulsed by his appearance, and causing her to have a seizure with his reaction, he is pulled from the street by shady government agents. When he awakens, a doctor Paul Ruth sits with him and explains, at least partly, why he has been in such an acute state of distress for so long. What he neglects to tell his latest subject is that there are plenty of other scanners out there, and not all of them are nice.
As if we needed any demonstration of that last fact, we cut to the inside of the government facility the good doctor works for. There, a scanner who has been "tamed" is giving a demonstration of his powers. Asking for a volunteer, he is met with reluctance until a seemingly ordinary man from what appears to be the scientific community puts up a hand. Asked to think of an unclassified secret that does not relate to his own organisation, the volunteer sits and calmly participates. But the man giving the demonstration shows increasing distress, convulsing and shaking as if being tortured. If you have already seen the film, you know what is coming. If you have not seen Scanners, no amount of description can prepare you. Literally, our lecturer is scanned to death, as in his head explodes. While this was not Michael Ironside's first role, starlets being groomed to be the next Nicole Kidman could not hope for a better introduction. And thus, we have the first of many performances from Ironside as a mean, ruthless sod.
This is why Scanners is a deeply flawed would-be masterpiece. While a protagonist is only as strong as your antagonist allows him to be, Stephen Lack is best summed up in the primary role by his surname. He lacks charisma, he lacks emotion, he even looks like he lacks a pulse. This would explain why Jennifer O'Neill, passive and inactive as she is, received top billing. This is why actors who can draw an audience can command millions of dollars in fees. Put simply, one does not notice when a film has halfway decent actors because they are doing their job. That job, at least in part, is to shore up the reality of the film they are in. For all the complaints I have heard people throw around regarding the abilities of actors like Hayden Christensen or others of his generation, they might as well be Ian McKellen or Christopher Lee when compared to Lack or O'Neill. They are totally the wrong people to build a film around, and were I remaking the film with similar actors, I would shift focus to make Ironside's character the hero.
The plot also becomes a problem in the final act. Cronenberg unwisely attempts to explain the origins of the scanner phenomenon, where our hero fits into it, what makes Daryl Revok the way he is, and why the good doctor is not so good, almost all in the one half hour. The end result is disjointed, although not quite pointless. Cronenberg does manage to spin the final scene into something of a climax, but the loss of the thread is really only highlighted by the fact that audiences remember the head explosion, a sequence that occurs in the first two reels of the film, better than the final scanning battle. Not that I am too surprised, as that shot was a tough act to follow. Nonetheless, the film's highlights are many, and they more than make up for most of the problems. The only problem that remains is that the scale of the story is simply too big for the budget, the technical expertise available, and the running time. Fortunately, Cronenberg was able to rectify this in his subsequent projects.
When I add it all up, I consider Scanners an eight out of ten film. It is almost a masterpiece, and a must-have for fans of gore or outsider stories.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Scanners is one of those films that occasionally gets shown on
terrestrial TV and when it does, I always try to see it. Yeah its dated
-like many of the films that were made right at the end of the 70's or
beginning of the 80's.
It has to be said there is some poor acting especially from the terrible actor who played the lead role in Cameron Vale. A young Michael Ironside is perfectly cast however as the menacing Darryl Revok and Patrick McGoohan adds a bit of quality as the mysterious, flawed Doctor Ruth.
The film starts off very well, but the second half is disappointing especially towards the end, what with Cameron Vale accessing a computer with his psychic powers (yes it was 1980- and films tended to be very exuberant about computers back then), and the disappointing way in which Dr Ruth and the corrupt informant Keller were killed off.
The music creates a very dark and disturbing atmosphere throughout and the film ends with a gory psychic duel between Revok and Vale illustrating some of the dubious special effects. Yes it's flawed and weird at times but definitely worth seeing if you're into alternative thriller/horror movies. I give it 6/10.
David Cronenberg is one of the most provocative horror directors ever as one of his early films like Scanners proves. Stephen Lack has just been picked by Dr. Patrick McGoohan to infiltrate a sinister organization of scanners-people of telepathic abilities. Lack is one of them who gets administrated a drug to control his more intense urges. Michael Ironside is the one they're looking for. Jennifer O'Neill, Lawrence Dane, and Robert Silverman also lend support. See heads explode and veins pop! There's lots of exposition but more than enough gore and action to satisfy any hard core fans out there. Film actually seemed a little short but there's not a wasted minute here. All Cronenberg and horror fans should definitely seek this one out.
Within "normal" society exists a new breed of person who possess
telepathic powers. They are small in number but their powers makes them
very dangerous but also very powerful in the hands of the right
people. Dr Paul Ruth runs a secretive programme trying to develop the
power into a weapon but he only has one recruit Cameron Vale. When
Ruth's programme is violently attacked by scanner Darryl Revok, they
realise that the battle is being lost and they prepare Vale to go
undercover, in filtrate Revok's group and lead them to him.
As everyone and their dog knows, this film is always talked about for the infamous scene near the start where we are first shown the power of the scanners, however there are many scenes across the whole film that are just as strong as that one. The opening scene is powerful as it shows the ability Vale has and the lack of control he has over it while the scene where Revok escapes capture is even more sinister and gripping. This pretty much carries across the whole film although there are some slows spots and parts of the story that don't hang together as well as they should. Cronenberg is famous for his body horror but he does do tension well and here he is solid when called upon. The low budget does show through at times but mostly it is good.
The acting is a little bit ropey though, which is maybe where the limitations do show through. Lack is OK but he isn't anything special he can say his lines well enough and not fall over while walking but he can't bring out much more below the surface than that. He reminded me of the old b-movie matinée stars who have good jaws but not much else. McGoohan is better and his presence is welcome in his scenes. Ironside is hammy but enjoyable perhaps not having as much screen time as I would have liked but effective when he is. The support is mostly pretty average, O'Neill is OK but the rest are so-so and are sometime amusing as they get scanned.
Overall though this is a classic cult film. The plot moves forward well enough although I would have liked more real life commentary from Cronenberg above the general "mental illness" metaphor that it acts as but his direction otherwise is good. The cast are mostly only OK but they do enough to keep the story moving while moments of horror and tension are well served up. Could have been better in several key areas but is still worth seeing.
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