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Film Review: Scanners (1981)

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Of all the billions of individuals on earth 237 are “Scanners”. They have the most horrendous powers ever created and they are winning the final confrontation for world domination. Darryl Revok is generally considered the most powerful of all the Scanners, and is the head of the underground Scanner movement. These abnormal humans have great psychic power, strong enough to the dominate the minds of others and they can inflict enormous pain and suffering on their victims. Doctor Paul Ruth finds a Scanner that Revok hasn’t. He converts him to their cause which is to destroy this underground movement. A scientist sends along a unique hunter with extraordinary psychic powers to hunt others like him. And then things get real messy!

Director/ Screenplay: David Cronenberg
Producer: Pierre David, Claude Heroux
Starring: Jennifer O’Neill, Patrick McGoohan, Michael Ironside, Cameron Vale


After “The Brood” in 1979 David Cronenberg was on a creative role of sorts. His next film is “Scanners”, followed by “Videodrome”. An accidental side effect of a anesthetic administered to some women during pregnancy spawns Cameron Vale “Stephen Lack” an extremely powerful Scanner. Though all is not right in his world. He is on the run from a group of renegade Scanners, led by the reprehensible Darryl Revok “Michael Ironside”. Though we’ll see that Cameron Vale is possibly the strongest Scanner ever located. The initial confrontation ends in a bloody mess and he’s back on the loose. We find out later this evil group is run by Dr. Paul Ruth “Patrick McGoohan” who plans on creating a company of super-humans to rule the world.

Quickly a battle ensues and blood begins to fly as does brain matter. At times Patrick McGoohan’s role as the evil mastermind Dr. Paul Ruth gives the impression that he could be from that mysterious society that kept “The Prisoner” incarcerated in the 1960s TV show. Vale adds a female Scanner to his ranks in order to defeat the forces of renegade Scanners; she is Kim Obrist “Jennifer O’Neill”. As the cat and mouse game continues the inevitable end-game between Darryl Revok and Cameron Vale takes place and things begin to “split” as they say. The action packed sequences are fast paced and dynamic and seem to be shot on the University Of Toronto Ontario and the Eaton Centre. “Scanner’s” is very entertaining and fits nicely into Cronenberg’s twisted science-fiction anthology which ends with “eXistenZ” in 1999. Noticeable flaws in “Scanners” are unavoidable, especially the Voice Over work with Jennifer Jones near the end, and even though it’s famous, the end battle is a bit over the top and even its SFX seems amateurish. In recent years David Cronenberg has strayed away from his horror roots, though his fans assume he’ll be back again to astound us as he has for over 40 years!

The veteran Dick Smith was the special effects consultant to new comer Tom Schwartz. Tom seems to have retired from the business soon after 1986. Carol Spier is again David Cronenberg choice for Art Direction, though not as creative other Cronenberg movies.

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