Saturday 13 April 2013


Released this week in fancy new steelbook packaging, it's David Cronenberg's 1981 body horror classic, Scanners.

David Cronenberg was always one of the best directors of body horror, and to some extent, he was never better than he was here. With an effects budget that would be far surpassed by the likes of The Fly or eXistenZ they achieved an incredibly disturbing world where eyeballs explode, veins spray blood out of people's temples and, of course, heads go pop.

The scanners are a group of genetic anomalies who are capable of controlling people's minds and performing acts of pyromania, just with the power of thought. Once under the observation of Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan), they now have disbanded with the psychopathic Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside) acting as general to those who follow his cause and executioner to those who don't.

Scanners starts well, displaying a couple of early examples of what they can do, first on an unsuspecting busy body in a mall and then (in it's most often referenced scene) when Michael Ironside livens up a stuffy conference by exploding someone's head. As Dr. Ruth puts it, "at the age of 22 he was self destructive. At the age of 35 he is simply destructive". There is only one hope of Dr. Ruth regaining control of the scanners; by recruiting rogue scanner Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) and sending him undercover to infiltrate Revok's army.

Scanners was the start of Cronenberg's impressive '80s filmography that includes Videodrome, The Dead Zone, The Fly and Dead Ringers, and can be seen as the film that brought the Canadian director's work into wider recognition. The plot is simple enough (it's Vale's mission to get close to Revok and assassinate him to prevent a full scale war) and has a fantastic selling point in the promise of sheer unexpected gore ever looming.

Sure, the fashions have dated and the synth heavy score is unmistakably early '80s, but that scanning sound still sends a shiver down your spine. Scarred on his forehead where he once tried to drill into his brain to relieve the pressure, it's a great performance from Michael Ironside that is pure demonic brooding; so great in fact that it does overshadow Stephen Lack's less interesting good guy.

The best scenes are those involving dramatic head explosions, but there's plenty to enjoy for nostalgic fans and newcomers alike. Released alongside the not quite as memorable sequels, it's a shame that Michael Ironside couldn't be persuaded to contribute to this new disc, but with interviews from effects boffins and leading man Stephen Lack, there's a couple of decent extras included too.


Extra Features :-
+ My Art Keeps Me Sane - Interview with leading man Stephen Lack
+ Exploding Veins and Popping Brains - Interview with effects artist Stephen Dupuis
+ The Eye of Scanners  - Interview with cinematographer Mark Irwin
+ The Chaos of Scanners  - Interview with producer Pierre David
+ Bad Guy Dane - Interview with Lawrence Dane

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