"I'm gonna suck your brain dry!"
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 06/25/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"From writer/director/auteur David Cronenberg comes another intelligent and visceral sci-fi/horror classic in the form of Scanners (1981), a film that takes a disturbing look at potential of the human mind within all of us, but only a few may actually possess. The questions posed are what if there were those out there who had the ability to read minds and control people actions just by thought? And what if those same individuals, scanners, as called within the film, also had not only the ability to read minds and control the actions of others with their mind, but also had the power to kill with the same means? The film stars Jennifer O'Neill (Summer of '42), the eccentric Patrick McGoohan (The Prisoner, Silver Streak), Michael Ironside (Total Recall), and Stephen Lack, who, by the way, is not only an actor, but also a world-renowned artist, having garnered much acclaim for his paintings. As the film begins, we see a homeless man (Lack) wandering a mall, getting dirty looks from all the people he sees (hey hey we're the Monkees...whatever)...anywho, one woman in particular, in the food court, seems exceptionally offended by his presence, but she soon has other things to worry about as she suffers from some sort of brain freeze, like the kind you get when you drink something cold too fast, brought on by the homeless man...turns out our homeless man (in my day, they were called bums, but whatever), whose name is Cameron Vale, has psychic powers of some sort, and has garnered the attention of CONSEC (whose chairman looks a helleva lot like Ed Asner), a company that specializes in weapons, specifically Dr. Paul Ruth (McGoohan), who describes himself as a `psycho pharmacist', whatever that means (I bet he's a lot of fun to hang out with on the weekends). Dr. Ruth basically recruits Vale in a effort to track a particularly dangerous and powerful scanner by the name Darryl Revok, who's supposedly head of an underground movement of scanners and who has also basically decimated CONSEC's program of exploring the weapons potential of scanners, as he seems to subscribe to a policy of if you have special mind powers, then you either join up with him or you get your head exploded. Along the way Vale meets with Kim Obrist (O'Neill), a sort of leader of a fringe group of scanners outside of CONSEC and Revok's control (not for long), and they soon find themselves fighting for their lives as conspiracies unfold, traitorous scoundrels exposed, and secrets reveals. What's Revok's ultimate goal? It's not that far-fetched, considering his abilities...I enjoyed this film...there really wasn't too many lengthy visceral scenes, but what there was contained very graphic gore (s'ploding heads) that imprinted on your mind, and tended to stay with you long after the scene was over. One scene, in particular, when Revok deals with the scanner at CONSEC, the tension was thick as the pressure, on and off the screen, built up quickly, and resulted in the film's most spectacular and memorable sequence. Jennifer O'Neill is good (and very easy on the eyes, shabba doo), but I didn't quite understand her character's connections to the other characters in the film, other than her being a scanner. It almost seemed like a plot contrivance if only to incorporate an attractive female, not that I mind attractive females, but her scenes could have pretty much been removed without much loss to the plot. Patrick McGoohan is one of my more favorite actors and he plays his part very well as the mentor/trainer to Lack's character, sort of a Professor X, if you are familiar with the X-Men comics or movies. Lack provides a sort of disjointed performance, but I felt as if it was intentional, as it seemed to work really well within the movie and fit his character, one who's spent most of his life trying to deal with the problems associated with his special abilities. I thought Michael Ironside's character was great, as he plays the role of the sadistic heavy with a God complex so very well (except, maybe for his role in Highlander II: The Quickening...ugh, what a complete dog that movie was...). He reminds me a lot of Lance Henriksen, both good actors but rarely ever emerging from B-movie limbo. Maybe they need better agents. There was a certain amount of symbolism throughout the movie, the most noticeable being when Lack's character is following up on lead by contacting a reclusive scanner who is an artist living in a barn. One of his pieces is a giant, hollow head, and there's a scene where the two men are actually sitting in the head, talking about Revok. There seems to be some confusion about the ending, after the final confrontation, but I thought it was pretty clear, and provided a nice eerie touch. MGM presents a nice wide screen anamorphic transfer, but some have commented on the certain parts of the film being out of sync, but I didn't notice. I was a little surprised there was so little in the way of special features given the cult following of the film and that of Cronenberg in general, with only a theatrical trailer available, but I suppose someday they will produce a special edition of sorts. I would have liked to have seen a director's commentary, or some production notes, but I am pleased with what's here.Cookieman108"
An early Cronenberg classic whose story stands the test of t
A. Sandoc | San Pablo, California United States | 08/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Scanners marks the emergence of David Cronenberg from low-budget horror auteur to one of the most unique voices in filmmaking of the last thirty or so years. He first came onto the scene directing such low-budget horror films such as Shivers, Rabid and The Brood. These three films were later said to have had that Cronenberg propensity to show the horror of the body-politic at its most basic. Cronenberg pretty much points out of how true horror might not be lurking on the outside, but within the the human body. Cronenberg makes the human body as forever changing and mutating against the individual person's wants and desire of what was suppose to be the ideal. The horror that we as a people do not and will never have control over our own body was where the true horror lie.
In 1981, Cronenberg moves from the purely physical horror to one where the technology man was forever trying to create and achieve perfection would turn on the biological aspect of the human condition. This new form of techno-organic mutation was as terrifying as it was seductive in its potential to those afflicted with it. Cronenberg begins this phase in his filmmaking voice with his excellent, underappreciated and cult-classic Scanners.
The premise for Scanners had alot in common with Stephen King's novel Firestarter in the fact that in dealt with an omnipresent and powerful organization: the CIA's shadowy branch that dealt with experimental weapons programs for Firestarter and the ultra-powerful CONSEC multinational corporation in Scanners. These two organizations experiment on random select individuals using experimental drug treatments under the guise of helpful medications. What results from these experiments are more than what was truly expected by their handlers. In Scanners the result comes from mental abilities never seen or documented in the past. CONSEC's experiments have yielded a unique group of individuals, 237 of them, to manifest powers of the mind that make them living weapons of mass destruction. Instead of becoming a new wonder-weapon for CONSEC to sell to their government contacts, these 237 become unstable in personality, some going as far as to develop a God-complex. Others are driven insane by these new abilities and retreat away from the rest of humanity in order to achieve a semblance of mental peace.
These two different reactions from the 237 are keenly represented by two of the main character's in Cronenberg's film. There's Cameron Vale (played by Stephen Lack who had an eerie resemblance to the same named character of Stephen in Dawn of the Dead) who we first see as a vagrant who seems to be suffering from some sort of mental problem. This is farther from the truth as Dr. Paul Ruth (father of the CONSEC drug effemerol that causes the mutation and played with eccentric flair by Patrick McGoohan) soon discover that Vale's mental problems is due to him possessing preternatural mental abilities of the highest order. Ruth's guilt over what his experiments have done and created leads him to use Vale to counter the growing underground of those 237 who have seen their newfound abilities as a stepping stone to supplanting the normal status quo with their own in a plan of global domination that would make fans of X-Men very proud.
Leader of this underground groups of scanners (as the 237 were called) is one Darryl Revok. A scanner whose abilities rival those of Vale's but whose mental instability for wanting to dominate the normals of the world makes him the most dangerous individual on the face of the planet. Genre veteran Michael Ironside steals the film from everyone else. His grand and classic introduction early in the film has gone down in filmmaking history as one of the most shocking scenes put on film. Ironside's performance as the scanner with the God-complex was truly megalomaniacal and it was easy to root against him, but hard to take one's eyes from the screen when he was on. Revok truly made for one of film history's classic villains.
In the middle of Vale and Revok's war for control lies Kim Obrist (played by the beautiful Jennifer O'Neill) who tries to lead those who just want to be left alone from being used by both Revok and CONSEC. O'Neill's performance was the most grounded in reality, as much as a film about people with mental powers could be, and tries to keep the film from getting too fantastic.
This I think was what made Scanners such a great film. As ludicrous a premise as the film had to base its sotry on, there was always a sense of realism to keep everything form becoming too much like a comic book. The story paints a story that could happen in reality since similar things have occurred in the past such as the LSD testing on US military personnel during the 50's and 60's. Cronenberg plays on such fears of outside factors introduced by scientists looking to forever improve on what nature took eons to evolve. It's this hubris about man's attempt to dominate his own body which interests Cronenberg and what would happen if he did succeed in doing something nature and humanity wasn't ready for.
Scanners marked Cronenberg's interest in examining the effect of man's quest for better and better technology, whether mechanical or biological, on humanity's physical and mental existence. What he brongs forth, first with Scanners then later on with Videodrome and The Fly, was something both horrific and seductive. Who wouldn't want to have such abilities as Vale and Revok had at their command. But by the end of Scanners the film posits the question of how much of one's humanity must be sacrificed for such huge leaps on the evolutionary ladder. Will the resulting amalgamation of nature and technology still leave something human or just something that pretends to look like one.
Some have called Scanners a horror movie and some have called it a sci-fi thriller. It's both those and more. It's really hard to pin down just exactly which genre Scanners falls under since Cronenberg never tried to stay within one particular one. The film works as a thriller, as a science-fiction story, a horror flick and a philosophical exercise in examining the human condition. Cronenberg's skill was clearly evident in keeping all these differing themes and genres from becoming out-of-place and bringing the finished product from becoming too flawed. Cronenberg's first foray into this new phase of his filmmaking career ushered in what some have called Cronenberg at his most daring and pure. I wouldn't argue with such an argument. Scanners is a film of great quality that would forever be used as an example of Cronenberg's genius as a filmmaker."
Cronenberg's claim to fame
Alan Draven | Montreal, Canada | 03/15/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Scanners is the story of a scanner (one who has telekinetic abilities such as blowing others' heads off) by the name of Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) whom doctor Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan) enlists to help him seek out an evil scanner, Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside), who wants to lead his own army of psychotic scanners to world domination.
This was the film that put David Cronenberg on the map. It's one of his best and 25 years later, it still works; it actually fits this millennium like a glove, with all the experiments going on in science these days. As with all of Cronenberg's movies, he explores multiple themes and the film has more depth than it appears to have at first glance. It's a great blend of sci-fi and horror, at times unsettling, and features awesome special effects (the exploding head at the beginning, the final confrontation between Vale and Revok) and leads to a powerful climax. On the downside, the acting is a bit stiff and uninspired by the majority of the cast (save for Ironside who oozes evil in this role as in all his other roles).
If you're a fan of Cronenberg, what are you waiting for? You should have seen this already! If you like horror and/or sci-fi films, this one's a real treat. It's got a great plot, suspense, cool action scenes and Cronenberg's unique vision. See it today before the remake comes out next year!"
Michael Ironside was great.....
Jerry C. Lewey | Everywhere | 02/09/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have not seen every movie Ironside did, but this is a perfect performance by him. I bought this before I ever even saw it. I must say, it wasn't EXACTLY what I expected. It was still quite good though. As great as Ironside did in being a villian, I think he could have easily played the hero in this as well. His final scan with his brother in the movie was pretty intense. Also, his first scan was pretty interesting. His facial gestures were right on for what was going on as was the guy who, well, was supposed to be scanning Ironside. Good suspense for a Sci-Fi flick. The weak side of this movie was the hero, Stephen Lack. His acting was a bit shaky. I suggest this however. I also bought Videodrome, which i haven't seen yet, but looking forward to it. Crossing my fingers....."