Release Year: 1981
Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: David Cronenberg
Starring: Stephen Lack, Jennifer O’Neill, Michael Ironside, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane, Robert Silverman
Rating: Won 2 Saturn Awards: Best Make-Up, Best International Film. Nominated for 1 Saturn Award: Best Special Effects.
237 people known as scanners possess powerful psychic abilities that allow them to create a link between their mind and any nervous system in order to scan and control it. Most of these fall into the hands of the powerful and evil scanner Revok (Michael Ironside) and so Dr. Ruth (Patrick McGoohan), a scientist working for a pharmaceutical company, sends the scanner Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) to infiltrate Revok’s group and stop him.
The early films of Canadian writer and director David Cronenberg are truly a treasure trove of smart and well-made horror films based on original ideas and concepts; be it the blend between technology and the human body in Videodrome (1983), between human and animal in The Fly (1986). His horror films are always different and still revisit and explore similar themes: science and the scientist, psychology and psychiatry, etc. Scanners is no exception, but on top of being an interesting sci-fi horror about the science of psychic abilities it is also a great thriller, with interesting character, and non-stop plot, and great practical effects. Rarely are the per definition invisible psychic abilities showcased as well here, with great physical performances all around. Stephen Lack (Dead Ringers, 1988) is good as the lost soul saved by the kind psychiatrist Dr. Ruth, played by a great McGoohan (Braveheart, 1995). But it is Michael Ironside (Total Recall, 1987) who really impresses as Revok. The film’s fame mainly rests on a great hed-explosion scene at the beginning of the film (see trailer below), and a usual with Cronenberg, the practical effects are excellent, but this is not a gross-out horror flick. Groos-out effects are few but effective and interlaced by scene of intense action and thriller scenes. Highly recommended.
The effect for the (in)famous exploding head scene was accomplished by filling a latex head of the actor with dog food, leftover lunch, fake blood and rabbit livers, and shooting it from behind with a 12-gauge shotgun.
Picture Copyright: MGM