Arman's Review of Scanners
Initial Score: 9.0
-Scanners isn't the deceptively simple type of film David Cronenberg is usually known for however, there are a few undercurrents of his stance on government and politics present throughout. While missing this trademark it has 2 others of his: A healthy amount of gore and a protagonist struggling with himself both of which are put to effective use. With Scanners Cronenberg proves he's adept at delivering the cliched battle between good and evil in a visually striking package coated with all the common trappings of sci fi/horror in the name of fun and there's plenty to be had here.
-Scanners are people who possess telepathic abilities ranging from reading minds to spontaneous human combustion to telekinesis. In the case of Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) he doesn't know he's one and unintentionally causes a woman who makes fun of him to have a seizure which catches the attention of agents of a government run Scanners program called Consec. After ending up under the employ (or is it imprisonment and brainwashing?) of Dr. Paul Ruth played by Patrick McGoohan who convincingly lets his sympathy towards scanners shine through, Vale is trained as a makeshift secret weapon with the promise that the voices in his head will be quieted. The good doctor hopes Vale will infiltrate and undermine Revok, a homicidal rogue scanner with plans to take over the world with a scanner Army.
-Gary Zeller does a great job with the special effects as they hold up well to this day, Scanners best known for it's exploding head scene is a testament to the quality of special effects on display. It's so easy especially in the days before CG to fail crafting plausible sequences of implausible acts but here the visual punch is a knockout that doesn't even teeter on B horror territory by drowning each scene in blood and gore. The havok scanners are capable of wrecking on other people is almost tasteful because as much violence as there is it's never extravagant or self indulgent.
-Michael Ironside digs deep to balance the hot blooded indiscriminate blood lust of Revok with his more coldly calculating side. What's more impressive is Ironside's understanding of Revok's ability and motivations, he isn't the archetypal criminal mastermind however, he is smart enough to take advantage of his gifts and the opportunity to recruit a scanner army after getting an address list of all known scanners. Virtually no time is spent on developing Vale's character however his need for ephemerol the drug which stunts scanner ability to stop the voices in his head and the contempt we have for Revok's disregard for anyone who doesn't help further his cause is enough for us to be invested in Vale's and by extension Dr. Ruth's cause.
-Scanners is a movie for people who love what make movies unique. It isn't about it's characters or even the plot it's more about the ideas presented and their ability to take advantage of the stranglehold cinema's suspended disbelief can have on it's audience. This is a visual experience first and foremost and Cronenberg never forgets that nor is he content to rest on the laurels of the film's concept. The idea of powerful beings walking among us and using their powers for good or evil are explored in a basic way however, that's not to say it's totally shallow, there's a real sense of playfulness here and Scanners above all else successfully shows us how scary a stare can be.