Scanners (1981)

Scanners (1981) movie poster

director David Cronenberg
viewed: 05/08/2013

This is the one where the guy’s head blows up.  And it blows up real good.

There is this new race of humans, “scanners” they calls them.  See, they are psychic but generally don’t know it, so they run around society like schizophrenics, homeless, and troubled.  Except for one, one played by Michael Ironside with grotesque aplomb.  And then our hero, played by Stephen Lack, who is picked up by a scientist who is looking to help (a.k.a. “weaponize”) the scanners for a biomedical firm.  The doctor is played by Patrick McGoohan, and *spoilers alert* turns out to be their dad.

It’s all a rather convoluted plot in which a drug was administered to babies in utero to bring about these new skills, but which they then need to continue to take to keep the voices of the masses at bay.  But better than that, they have other psychic abilities including being able to connect to someone’s internal biochemical network and run it as their own.

And explode heads.  Of even other scanners.

Scanners is vintage Cronenberg and perhaps up until that point his most successful film.  It was another of the ones that I grew up with without having seen but knowing (or hearing) a lot about the exploding head.  So much so, you’d think that more than one head exploded in the movie, but it is just one.  And perhaps why it is so shocking and successful (besides the brilliant FX work) is timing it early in the film before much else has happened.  It sort of comes out of nowhere.  And boom.  Big bloody mess.

The finale between the brothers, a showdown of scanner skills, is the film’s other FX specialty.  It’s good too.  But the film lacks a bit which I think oddly enough falls mostly on star Stephen Lack who really is missing something in a movie star.  I much preferred Cronenberg’s Rabid (1977), an earlier “body horror” film from the Canadian horror maven turned intellectual auteur.

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