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The concept is cool. Ironside's is an interesting character. And he does a great job. But we dont care much for everyone else. So much so that we are left with only Irinside and the special affects. Shame. Because it could have been so much better. It's this type of
sc-fi horror film that could use a good remake. That would have been more interesting then Robocop (2014)
All in all, it's a marginal thumbs down.
"Now I know what it feels like to die"
A fascinating sci-fi horror thriller!
David Cronenberg's indie science-fiction horror film Scanners (1981) is an all time great psychological thriller. You are thrust into a world of riveting telepathy and horror practical effects. Cronenberg's visionary direction sees Scanners as a compelling thriller of building paranoia and cautious people. Cronenberg captivates you with inventive direction to depict telepathic powers by way of strained faces in unbearable agony. Scanners features David Cronenberg's finest direction and remains one of Canada's greatest films.
The scenic Canadian backdrop of Montreal, Quebec and Toronto, Ontario makes Scanners feel familiar, yet Cronenberg shoots everything like a sterile world of haunting potential, so that all the cool sets and locations in Scanners come across as otherworldly. Carol Spier's production design makes each Canadian room look like it's straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey or Soylent Green. You are always aware of the bright sterile white lights or the radiant green lighting in the factory.
I have to talk about the odd cast of actors and actresses purposefully acting strangely to portray their scanners as different from the rest of society. Stephen Lack is absolutely engaging in a surreal way as his disaffected performance of the hero Cameron Vale in Scanners. His piercing green eyes stare at his victims and allies alike with a persistent gaze. His intentionally cold acting is really interesting to watch unfold and gain emotions as Scanners goes along to his brilliant acting in the finale. His intense stares feel like you are looking into Vale's soul. Lack is so casual and cool as his protagonist scanner Vale that you admire Cameron's ability to go from homeless to hero. Likewise, Michael Ironside is downright heinous as the sly villain Darryl Revok. His acting during his first escape is seriously scary, but his acting during his duel with Lack is the finest acting either of them have ever put on film. It's a mental showdown that rivals any X-Men or Legion mind combat. Ironside is just fearless as Revok and it cuts you deep.
Jennifer O'Neill is sympathetic and curious as her scanner Kim Obrist uses her powers in a more psychological fashion making soldiers imagine they were about to shoot their own mothers. O'Neill has an oddly romantic chemistry with the equally cool Stephen Lack. They both play it subtle adding nuances to their characters of Kim and Cameron throughout Scanners. You really want them to win this psychic war.
Patrick McGoohan is phenomenal as Dr. Paul Ruth in one of his finest outings as a dramatic actor. He's intellectual without pretension and decent without heroics. Dr. Ruth is just a well written character, who gets much of the telepathy exposition and he kills it as a believable doctor. On the other hand, Lawrence Dane is slimy and repulsive as the corrupt politician that meddles in the scanners affairs named Braedon Keller. His end to the self-destructing computers is poetic as he tries to damage Vale's nervous system only to have his computer threat backfire spectacularly. Lastly, I rather enjoyed the odd cameo from Robert A. Silverman as the artistic scanner stuffed with paranoia named Benjamin Pierce.
I would be remiss to not give a special commendation to the First Scanner played by the devastating Louis Del Grande. You feel so bad as his character cannot take the mental attack any longer. His violent shaking and screwed up faces make Scanners all the more delightful.
Howard Shore's score is a fantastic blend of 1980's synths and subtle classic melodies. Shore raises the stakes with high tension inducing passages of throbbing ambient noises and pulsating bass that reverberate in your mind during the mental battle sequences. Shore blasts through Scanners with epic themes of synth dripping rhythms at first, then lovely piano the next. Other quiet scenes have haunting and lovely melodic classical style music to accompany the uneasy tone of Scanners around every corner. Shore's music is the pretty classical, while the sound design comes from a team of Cronenberg's finest, consisting of Charles R. Bowers, Peter Burgess, Don Cohen, Peter Jermyn, and Bruce Nyznikupping, who up the ante with the echoing voices and sudden pangs of sound.
Ronald Sanders' editing keeps you in suspense and anticipation as you never know what will happen next in Scanners. Sanders takes you from exploding heads to car chases and shotgun shells in the span of a few minutes. The horror comes from the uncertainty and the editing is slick and stark to force you to witness everything on screen. I love the dissolves into each character as they stare at one another just like the hard cuts from each person. Sanders' edits find an unlikely home in the strange world of David Cronenberg.
The practical horror effects are astounding as you see heads blowing up with gore, veins popping, eye gouging, and all manner of brutal deaths in Scanners. Dick Smith came up with the brilliant make-up for veins popping out of the body for the finale scanner duel. As well as Brigette McCaughrys movie make-up tricks to convince the audience a character's mind was being melted. Delphine White's costumes look like contemporary Canadian plaid, flannel, wool, and corduroy outfits, but more towards the hippy 70's or mod 60's style for a retro aesthetic.
Notably, the iconic head exploding sequence comes from Smith too with a dummy head filled with tons of debris and Gary Zeller's creative solution of a shot from behind by a shotgun for an ungodly effect that hits you hard.
Cronenberg writes an increasingly insane story about telepaths called Scanners with political intrigue and curious commentary about medical ethics. Cronenberg seems to ask how far should scientists and the government go for social engineering and indoctrination of ideas before society fights back against totalitarian regimes. It's an interesting concept and Scanners certainly is the most intriguing film about telepathy ever made. Scanners is a creatively directed film, thoughtful sci-fi story, gripping paranoia thriller, and shocking horror feature.
Mark Irwin's cinematography is stunning with wide shots outdoors to give Scanners an open fell of infinite possibilities. Irwin captures striking visuals from revealing close-up shots of anguished faces straining to keep their mind intact to distraught looks from scanners trying to read another's mind. The long panning shots around rooms are just as interesting as the numerous still shots holding on a character's gaze during a significant conversation. Every shot feels deliberate and well thought out beforehand to hold the viewer's attention.
Scanners is simply an awesome movie of exhilarating gunfire and enthralling psychic combat. The mental battles are worth the price of admission, but Cronenberg's indie filmmaking and the cast's sensitive acting make Scanners a timeless masterpiece among sci-fi horror and psychological thrillers.
When going into this film, I recommend expecting a serious film with rediculous elements sprinkled within. If you are looking for a serious film from beginning to end, this may not be for you.
It's exciting to watch the brain exploding scene and final battle scene, made without CG, and... that's it. Maybe this movie WAS quite new in those days it first appeared.
Scanners has a good premise about advanced people who have mind-powers. I like the idea that they are divided up into factions with different agendas because it reminded me a lot of an X-Men story. The powers they possess lack a lot of details, and we’re constantly discovering there is more they can do. At one point they pushed beyond my suspension of disbelief by making a character mind-control a computer over the phone, but I bought into the rest of their crazy powers. One of the biggest problems that Cronenberg had with his early films, and it continues here, is poor casting. This time they got most of the cast right, but in the lead role we have to watch Stephen Lack horribly mangle every line. He is a terrible actor and his facial expressions and body movements made me laugh more than once, particularly when utilizing his powers. It’s a shame, because in contrast to Lack, Michael Ironside is amazing and totally pulls off the facial quirks necessary to appear authentic. The one big iconic moment that this movie is most known for is in the very first scene of the movie, and that was both good and bad. I liked it because that meant I couldn’t predict what was going to happen next, but I disliked it because it is the coolest thing that happens in the movie so you can’t look forward to anything after seeing that. Of the early films made by Cronenberg, Scanners is the most promising, and I only wish they had pulled it off better (and casted the correct actor for the most important role.
While the film certainly has some incredible special effects, solid direction from Cronenberg, and and interesting story with plenty of twists and turns, Scanners struggles from poorly written characters and wooden performances, making what should have been a sophisticated, unnerving, and grotesque experience a flat, one note film that attempts to cut deep, but doesnt even break the skin.
Blobbo love this kinda junk.
Scanners is intense, very entertaining and with a well utilized premise in it. The special effects are excellent for its time and the score is very effective. The movie's pretty solid across the board, but it needed more sophistication in it as it ended up being just a standard sci-fi horror flick with nothing truly outstanding to offer.
Scanners jarringly veers from dull and sleep-inducing technobabble to outrageously violent action, and yet once its over it retains a strangely fond memory in the mind despite it all.
This score is amazing and each scene is perfectly shot. The script itself is clever and suspenseful while offering new surprises as it progresses. There is some good acting here and the scenes have a very real quality to them, like they are actually happening in the real world, and the lore is very fun science fiction. Obviously this is a critique of the pharmaceutical industry and it's acceptance of loss of life in exchange for commercial product (which sadly is a necessary evil in many cases or they could never be profitable) but the worst of it is when they don't even attempt to right their wrongs. On the other hand, the legal system makes it so that if they admit fault it can tank their business, so that's another obstacle that I don't see an answer to. You only get funding for a product if it's profitable, and if it rarely does anything bad to anyone there is no financial reason to change it when problems arise because changing the product may cause more issues than it fixes, the new research wouldn't be funded or profitable, and the old product may save many many lives. What if no universal good option can be found? Should the drug then be scrapped for all of the thousands of people it could possibly raise from the grave? It's an interesting question. On the other side of things, the espionage aspect of the film was really fun and it was overall a great thriller.