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Scanners - 1981

Scanners - 1981

Director(s): David Cronenberg

Writer(s): David Cronenberg      

Cinematography by: Mark Irwin

Editor(s): Ronald Sanders

Cast: Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane, and Michael Ironside


David Cronenberg (The Fly, Videodrome, The Brood, and The Dead Zone) shares more than just a first name and a career titles with David Lynch - they are both firmly associated with the term "cult" movies and have amassed substantial, loyal fanbases. Cronenberg has never been interested in traditional storytelling, blurring the lines between the sci-fi, horror, thriller, and drama genres creating a style many have tried, and most have failed, to duplicate. So, how about we talk about one of his most beloved films, Scanners.

The story takes places within a world where a breed of men and women, called "scanners," possess the ability to read other people's minds and manipulate them to do whatever they want. ConSec, a private security company, hunts down scanners in hopes of using them as weapons. When a powerful scanner called Darryll (Ironside), goes rogue and starts to form a group to stop ConSec's plans - they send out their newly recruited scanner, Cameron (Lack), to kill him and his group of rebels.


I should start with the things that I liked about this film - before going in on why I walked away so disappointed by my first viewing. I loved Michael Ironside performance, his facial expressions, and line delivery borders around over the top, but never quite gets there, completely taking over the film every time he is on screen. The practical effects are creative and fun - I especially loved how their veins turned grey and inflated throughout their body - and the head-explosion scene is the GIF that keeps on giving. And that is it really.

The story felt like it had no room to grow, as it was utterly uninterested in exploring the characters and what it meant for them, and for this society, to have these powers. The resolution of the mystery is explained to us through a very long winded conversation, and the twist is thrown in at the last second without a single hint of foreshadowing before it. The conflicts boil down to good versus evil with no nuance even though this company has terrible intentions behind the hunting of their breed, and it has a force feed romantic element that the actors never sell since the script doesn't set it up properly. The pacing goes at a snail's pace, making the runtime feel bloated despite the 1hr and 43min length. And on top of everything, Stephen Lack lacks everything needed to be a lead of a film or an actor. His line delivery and reaction to the events he has been thrust in are so bad that I got excited whenever he was not on screen


I can see a great film buried in there, and I completely understand why it holds its cult status. The special effects are fantastic, and I was so impressed by how creative and unique they were at times. Ironside tries his best to deliver a performance that carries a bland script and a wet napkin of a lead, but I could not get on board with the film, and I found myself wanting it to end. I’ll stick to Cronenberg’s far superior works in The Fly and Videodrome.

Scanners is a Streamer!

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