An obvious attempt to cash in on the notoriety of its predecessor (not to mention David Cronenberg?s name recognition), [i]Scanners II: The New Order[/i], a direct-to-video sequel to Cronenberg?s 1981 science-fiction/horror film about mutants with telepathic and telekinetic powers, [i]Scanners[/i], simply regurgitates (or to be kind, ?borrows?) all the major plot elements and plot turns from [i]Scanners[/i], while adding next to nothing to the ?scanner? universe or mythos. Whatever reputation [i]Scanners[/i] has among science fiction/horror fans depends on the semi-derivative premise and, more importantly, its signature set pieces, an exploding head (thanks to an invasive ?scan? at a conference) and the climactic duel between rival scanners. Mediocre (and, therefore, forgettable) from opening scene to last, [i]Scanners II: The New Order[/i] even fails to provide a modicum of cheap thrills via makeup effects or set pieces.
[i]Scanners II: The New Order[/i] opens, appropriately enough for an unambitious sequel, with the discovery and capture of an unstable scanner, Peter Drak (Raoul Trujillo). Departing (slightly) from the original, Drak isn?t the hero/protagonist. Instead, as his name obviously implies, Drak will be firmly allied with the forces of ?evil.? After being captured by several police officers (thanks to a tranquilizer dart), Drak is brought into Morse Neurological Research Institute and into the service of Dr. Morse (Tom Butler), a typical ?mad scientist? type interested in controlling scanners through drugs. He?s only partially succeeded. Scanners who use F-2 to control their powers (and the voices in their heads), eventually become addicted, and, therefore, useless to Morse or his associate in the police force, Commander John Forrester (Yvon Ponton). Forrester, it seems, has some strongly defined ideas about the social order and using scanners to combat crime, even if that means going outside the laws he?s sworn to uphold. In other words, Forrester fascist ideas and his plan to put them into action are good for him (and his associates) and bad for him.
Enter David Kellum (David Hewlett, [i]Stargate: Atlantis[/i]), a veterinarian student at the local university and scanner (due to an isolated upbringing in a rural community, David?s powers are, as yet, untapped). There?s the obligatory romantic subplot involving another veterinarian student, Alice Leonardo (Isabelle Mejijas) and a failed holdup attempt, with David using his newly awakened scanning powers to dispatch two robbers. David?s heroics, of course, bring him to the attention of the ever-ambitious Forrester, who contacts David and promises to help him learn more about himself and his powers. Forrester attempts to use David?s abilities for his personal gain (David convinces the mayor telepathically to make Forrester the acting chief of police). David becomes suspicious of Forrester, Morse, soon learning the details of their grandiose plans for world power (actually, more like local power, since Forrester wants to become mayor). There are one or two reversals (and revelations about David?s past), sending David on the run with the police after him, and eventually, the patented scanner duel (there?s only fully exploding head, with the villains suffering decidedly different fortunes).
Alas, the preceding description may make [i]Scanners II: The New Order[/i] sound more engaging or interesting than it actually is. Hampered by poorly motivated or stock characters, awkward, stiff performances (especially by Yvon Ponton as the central villain), deliberate, tensionless pacing, flashy visuals and a cheesy musical score better suited to soft-core porn, and a derivative storyline, [i]Scanners II: The New Order[/i] puts ?superfluous? in the phrase ?superfluous sequel.? The makeup effects are barely passable (at least, though, they?re pre-digital and slightly more realistic than a similar film made today) and the director, Christian Duguay, waits until the 85-minute mark before delivering the first (and only) fully exploding head. The climactic duel does contain a semi-interesting variation from the first film (one of the few), but it also undercuts the idea of David as an all-powerful (or the most powerful) scanner. It also runs too long (as two villains have to be dispatched sequentially).
Given the overall weak results, it shouldn?t come as a surprise that David Cronenberg had no involvement with [i]Scanners II: The New Order [/i]. Cronenberg or whoever owned the rights to [i]Scanners[/i] simply sold them to the highest (or only) bidder, collected their check, and stepped out of the way, or at least that seems like a reasonable guess, based on the mediocrity on screen. Not content to foist just one unnecessary sequel on the viewing public, the producers immediately followed [i]Scanners II: The New Order[/i] with [i]Scanners III: The Takeover[/i] (featuring characters unrelated to the first or second films in the series).