• Scanners
    2 minutes 31 seconds
    Added: May 9, 2008


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Scanners Reviews

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July 16, 2014
my criterion edition. :)
June 27, 2014
On Blu-ray July 15th from The Criterion Collection. Can't wait!
June 24, 2014
Michael Ironside's literally gave a mind-blowing performance no one will soon forget!
June 20, 2014
What it lacks in acting it makes up in an enjoyable plot and special effects (pretty brutal!). The pacing in this movie is pretty damn good too, you never really get a chance to be bored.
April 24, 2014
If Professor X was a nasty SOB, this is it! Scanners deal with the dangerous potential of telepaths. And without the CG at its time, the special FX were done wonderfully. Even surpassing some films of today. Despite the interest on the film, I find some scenes a bore, it could have used more action for such a terrifying subject.
April 28, 2014
Once you get past the exploding head, it turns out to be kind of a silly movie.
March 7, 2014
Great concept; lousy execution. There are a couple of great psychic fight scenes, but the plot in between is full of holes.
February 16, 2014
Exploding heads and vein popping telekenesis aside, it's all a bit boring
February 29, 2008
Almost more than any film David Cronenberg has made, SCANNERS' reputation precedes it. Its most shocking image still resonates: a man's head bursts from within, pieces of exploded brain sloshing in every direction. Red mist falls around the frame. It's a sequence that is so Cronenberg- gory, no-holds-barred excess, and yet its meaning is surrounded in mystery. Like Bunuel's iconic imagery, it's an action that is almost unfathomable because it is not something that can happen in our world. Its simple but impossible violence is mystifying. This is the essence of the director's oeuvre, a fascination with the fragility and biology of the human body paired with a passion for fantasy, and in this film those elements meet aggressively, paving the way for more gruesome experiments like VIDEODROME and THE FLY. But never again would Cronenberg find an image that summarizes his storytelling like that liquified head. It's unfortunate that the rest of this film- one that touts a pretty impressive plot on paper- can't live up to the barbaric wonder of that sequence. While watching this movie, one can't shake the feeling that Cronenberg was thinking mostly in images rather than in characters and story arcs. While his compositions continually impress, his story line becomes more unfocused, even bordering on lazy at times. There are long stretches where the people in his world are really just rambling, and these not only are wasted moments but ones that dull the bursts of manic violence that make the director's films so addicting when they're at their best. Worse yet is the unfortunate casting of Stephen Lack, who turns in by far the worst performance I have ever seen. While watching, I was constantly talking myself out of this judgement; Cronenberg often casts stiff, monotone actors in his leading roles, and they often contribute to his themes of sterilization and desensitization. Not so here, I'm afraid; nothing but bad acting. Luckily, Michael Ironside blindsides with scene-chewing energy and helps make the effects-filled finale one worth getting to.
Matty Stanfield
December 22, 2013
Though a cult hit, this film is more interesting in synopsis that in the act of actually watching it.
December 15, 2013
Part serious and surprisingly creative fiction, part wacky over the top fun, and also part confusing and boring, Scanners has a little of everything and not all of it's parts are good. The acting is laughably bad all around, the action scenes are the same, but the premise is clever and the plot is mostly pretty good. Most of what leads up to the ending is good but the ending itself is kinda shit.
December 8, 2013
I felt the beginning and early part of the middle (I'd say up until the point when they get out of the school bus) was really good and rather strong. I liked that Cronenberg portrayed the Scanners more as social misfits as opposed to just science fiction robots, which was different and exceeded my expectations. However, the latter part of the movie slowed down, lacked energy and became very expositional. I do have to say the showdown at the end was awesome, as is the exploding head. Acting is mostly not very good though, with a few exceptions. Overall, this is my third favorite Cronenberg film (after The Fly and The Dead Zone).
December 7, 2013
Cool, if somewhat dated, sci-fi flick.
Dan S

Super Reviewer

December 4, 2013
A special-effects driven mixed bag of a movie about a group of special people called "scanners" who have the ability to read peoples minds, or if they decide they do not like them or need to make a point, make their heads explode. However, when one ruthless, murdering man named Revok (Michael Ironside) threatens to use his powers to attempt to take over the world, another scanner, Vale (Stephen Lack) makes it his mission to stop him at any cost. The plot is fairly cliché and predictable to a point, with Ironside outshining Lack's performance by a mile thanks to the great intensity and ferocity he gives whenever he is on the screen. It is a largely entertaining movie but it could have used more fleshing out of the story line, one that attempted to throw out at least some surprises once in a while. Far from director David Cronenberg's best works, but ironically, this is the movie that put him on the map so to speak.
December 3, 2013
One of my favorites. Its story and characters are not particularly original, especially the final reveal, but the approach and execution is what elevates it above standard-issue sci-fi of the day. The aesthetics and the details, grafted onto a B-movie mold, make for some stimulating entertainment. It's a good entry point for Cronenberg, along with A History of Violence. Plus it has one of the all-time gnarliest gore moments, the glorious exploding head.
November 29, 2013
Scanners are people with the ability to "scan" other people. This include the ability to involuntarily hear people's thoughts (telepathy) and control other functions (heart beat). Most scanners are unhappy people, condemned to "hearing" an unstoppable flood of strangers' thoughts. Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) has uncommonly powerful scanning abilities but cannot handle the pressure and has withdrawn completely from society. A homeless derelict, he lives in a shopping mall. When he psychically overhears two women denigrating him he inadvertently induces violent convulsions in one, which in turn attracts the attention of some other people in the mall whom tranquilize and abduct him. Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrik McGoohan), head of ConSec's Scanner Research Section, is on the hunt for Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside) a renegade scanner with formidable telepathic powers who has declared war on ConSec and all scanners who voluntarily work for it. Revok is also the mastermind behind a scanner underground movement which Dr. Ruth wants to infiltrate and destroy. With the capture of Vale, Dr. Ruth sees him as the ultimate weapon to use against Revok and his cohorts. But, he also needs to convince Vale that this is his destiny to do so...

David Cronenberg once called this the most frustrating film he'd ever made. The film was rushed through production - filming had to begin without a finished script and end within roughly two months so the financing would qualify as a tax write-off, forcing Cronenberg to write and shoot at the same time. Cronenberg also cited difficulty with and antagonism between the leads, particularly Patrick McGoohan and Jennifer O'Neill. "Scanners" has been on my to see list since the days of the VHS cassette, meaning it was bloody time to see it. This is classic Cronenberg material in many ways, with a good mix of sci-fi, suspense and horror that works well. The metaphor of the film is based on birth defects and how a drug can mutate a child into something dangerous or lethal. I reckon it also carries resemblance to the X-Men world, on how another race of being can be accepted or discriminated in our society. Strong performances from Michael Ironside (always creepy) and Patrik McGoohan, while Stephen Lack is way too wobbly in his acting. Gotta love the head exploding scene and the final "battle" scene. The story is there, but rushed as said and not completely coherent at times. If Cronenberg would have had a better time schedule and not being forced to write and shoot at the same time, "Scanners" would have been even better for sure.
November 28, 2013
"Scanners", una de las primeras propuestas de David Cronenberg, es un thriller independiente con un gran concepto acompañado del estilo grotesco característico de su director. La premisa involucra a un grupo de individuos con poderes telekineticos que les permiten manipular mentes (y, al parecer, computadoras). Estos poderes son utilizados también para matar personas de formas muy creativas.
La cinta cuenta con un estupendo reparto (que incluye al mismísimo numero 6 de la serie de "The Prisoner", Patrick McGoohan). Sin duda, es fácil entender su estatus como película de culto. Muy recomendable.
November 3, 2013
Cool soundtrack, nice cinematography (even at the ridiculous moments), and cool concepts.
May 2, 2013
Stephen Lack suck. The movie is still enjoyable
October 27, 2013
This is the earliest of David Cronenberg's films that I've seen, from all the way back in 1981. The progress of Cronenberg's career is an interesting one; he started with relatively straight body-horror movies like this one, eventually began using those horror elements to pursue more intellectual questions in films like eXistenZ and Spider, and by now has moved on to abstract, almost purely intellectual films like A Dangerous Method and Cosmopolis. While the middle-period movies have probably been the most interesting overall so far, there's still something to be said for the more straightforward earlier work.

Scanners might well have set a new standard for horror violence in movies in 1981; I certainly can't think of anything earlier that can beat this film's head-explosion scene. The plot of the movie involves "scanners," who are a group of powerful telekinetic people capable of harming and even killing others with their powers, but who usually don't really know how to master said powers. We follow one particular scanner (Stephen Lack), as he is recruited by a scientifically-oriented corporation to track down and stop another rogue scanner (Michael Ironside).

The characters in this movie are pretty boring, except for Ironside's villain Revok. He's by far the most memorable presence in the movie, and it becomes much more entertaining whenever he's in it. Stephen Lack is rather wooden as the protagonist, and Patrick McGoohan's scientist Dr. Ruth (not that Dr. Ruth!) is too confusing to really be interesting.

The movie is a decent example of how to do science-fiction/horror on a low budget. Many of the "scanning" are accomplished simply through acting and sound effects, and it's generally quite effective and visceral. The outbursts of violence are relatively rarer than you might expect, but they are definitely gruesome and memorable when they do happen. I guess the main disappointment here is that, compared to later Cronenberg films, there isn't all that much to it beyond the gross-out effects and the sci-fi concept. The characters are pretty bland, and Cronenberg doesn't really use the material to ask any larger questions. It's maybe a little unfair to read this movie retrospectively through the lens of 32 years of later Cronenberg work, but oh well. It's got its moments, and one particular scene is both genuinely surprising and hilarious, but compared to much of his other work, it's a little basic.
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