- 1 hr 43 min
Scanners is a science-fiction horror movie released in 1981, written and directed by Canadian filmmaker, David Cronenberg. Set in a dystopian future, the movie revolves around individuals called "scanners" who possess telekinetic and telepathic powers that allow them to control people's minds, create illusions or even cause their heads to explode.
The story follows Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack), a lowlife young man who discovers he is a scanner after causing a woman to have a seizure in a shopping mall. Being homeless, he is recruited by the mysterious ConSec corporation, headed by Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan), to help them capture and train other scanners. Ruth believes that scanners pose a threat to society and that ConSec must control them. Vale is introduced to their most powerful scanner, Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside), who has formed a rebel organization of scanners to battle ConSec. Vale's mission is to infiltrate Revok's group and stop him from using his powers to harm others.
The movie opens with a disturbing scene of a man's head exploding in a busy room, setting the tone for the film's graphic violence and gore. The special effects were groundbreaking at the time, made possible through the use of molds and latex casts, which created the illusion of the actors' veins and muscles throbbing and twisting as their powers were unleashed. The movie's chilling score, composed by Howard Shore, adds to the films' eerie and tense atmosphere.
Scanners explores themes of government control, paranoia, and isolation. The scanners are treated as outcasts and freaks, forced to hide their abilities in a world that fears and persecutes them. The movie also criticizes capitalism, as ConSec's motivation to control the scanners is driven by profit and power rather than any altruistic intention.
Jennifer O'Neill plays Kim Obrist, another scanner who helps Vale in his mission. Their relationship is somewhat romantic but remains secondary to the film's main plot. O'Neill delivers a convincing portrayal of a scanner, conveying a sense of bewilderment and sadness at her condition.
Patrick McGoohan, best known for his role in the classic TV series "The Prisoner," is excellent as the sinister Dr. Ruth. He imbues the character with an almost religious fervor, viewing his work as a crusade against those he deems dangerous to society. He is the movie's antagonist but is portrayed in a complex and nuanced manner, making his portrayal all the more terrifying.
Stephen Lack, in one of his first acting roles, is serviceable as Cameron Vale. He plays the character as a blank slate, devoid of emotion and expression until he learns to control his abilities. Although he is more of an observer than an active participant in some scenes, his performance underscores the film's themes of isolation and detachment.
Michael Ironside's turn as Darryl Revok steals the show. He is charismatic, enigmatic, and utterly ruthless. His portrayal adds to the movie's moral ambiguity, as he is the rebel fighting against a tyrannical corporation, yet his methods are just as reprehensible as those of his enemies. His showdown with Vale is the film's highlight, a telepathic battle of wills that pushes both characters to their limits.
Overall, Scanners is a classic of '80s horror, a movie with a distinct style, cleverly subversive themes, and memorable performances. It is not without its flaws, as the pace can be slow at times, and the plot is somewhat convoluted. Still, for those who love science-fiction horror or the work of David Cronenberg, Scanners is worth watching. The film's legacy lives on even today, influencing countless movies from Stranger Things to X-Men.
Scanners is a 1981 science fiction movie with a runtime of 1 hour and 43 minutes. It has received moderate reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.7 and a MetaScore of 60.