Forgotten Flix

We're talking about the movies YOU grew up with!

Peter’s Retro Reviews: Scanners (1981)

Scanners movie posterby Peter Nielsen

”There are 4 billion people on earth. 237 are Scanners. They have the most terrifying powers ever created…and they are winning.”

The other week, I was talking older movies with a good friend of mine, and what a shame it was that they didn’t show more of them on TV. At least not on any of the channels he had! What he mostly missed was the great black & white ones from the 40’s and 50’s, but at one point in our conversation he said: “Hey, remember Scanners and how we used to go to Michael’s house to watch it?”

Yeah, of course, I remember! As I recall, we watched it a couple of times and the exploding head scene in particular was one we used to rewind and watch over and over again. You know..? So as not to miss any of the glorious gore… We even watched it in slow-motion! Yeah, I know… not your normal every-day behavior, but we wanted to know how they did it. Or maybe we were just a couple of sick puppies who wanted to watch exploding heads… I don’t know! Probably a little bit of both, heh heh…

Anyways, Scanners was on my list of movies I wanted to review, so that’s why I have chosen it for this week. The question was would it still hold up after all these years of not watching it? Well, I’ll get back to that later…

Things aren't looking too good for Dr. Ruth.

Things aren’t looking too good for Dr. Ruth.

Scanners is a Canadian horror sci-fi flick directed by David Cronenberg, a name I’m sure you’ll recognize. He’s responsible for a bunch of classic horror movies, like for instance Shivers, Videodrome, Rabid, The Dead Zone, Dead Ringers and The Fly. A lot of his work involves a fascination for the human body and the horror that may lurk beneath the skin. If you’ve ever seen any of Cronenberg’s movies, particularly his early ones, you’ll know what I mean. He’s sure as hell a great and interesting director, in my opinion anyway, and is one of my favorites.

Scanners is about a special breed of people with the ability to read other people’s thoughts and the power to move physical objects with their minds. Some of them are immensely powerful, most of them are unable to shut out the sensory overflow of thoughts from others and a select few are downright psychotic.

Pretty creepy, huh?

Pretty creepy, huh?

Darryl Revok is a product of all of the above and as a bonus he’s also a mean son of a bitch. He’s played extremely well by a favorite actor of mine, Michael Ironside. I’ve mentioned him before on the Forgotten Flix site in my reviews on Top Gun, Extreme Prejudice and Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, but he’s also starred in Starship Troopers and Total Recall to name a couple more. In Scanners he’s a scary and unpredictable individual and totally devoid of compassion for any living thing.

He’s the leader of an underground group of Scanners hell-bent on world-domination. They’ve waged a war against ConSec, a company working with weapons and security systems. ConSec search for Scanners and capture them and officially this is done to keep the public safe from them. Inofficially though, they just want the Scanners to use for their own purposes… and this is where Cameron Vale comes in.

At the start of the movie we see him wandering around in a mall stealing cigarettes and eating whatever scraps of food that people leave behind. He’s basically a homeless bum. At one point he overhears a conversation between two ladies who are talking about him in a very derogatory manner. This angers him and we see him stare intensely at them and suddenly one of them goes into violent convulsions. He’s spotted and hunted down by two men who shoot him with a tranquilizer gun.

Cameron doing his thang!

Cameron doing his thang!

When he wakes up he’s at ConSec, where he’s met by a man by the name of Dr. Paul Ruth, who informs him about what he is and what he’s capable of. We find out that Cameron is also a very powerful Scanner, equal only to Darryl Revok, which is why Dr. Ruth wants him to go after the renegade Scanner.

In order to get close to Revok, Cameron is helped by another Scanner, Kim Obrist, who wants nothing more to do with Darryl Revok because she feels that he is pure evil. Because of that, she’s turned against him, but if you’re not with him you don’t deserve to live. Nice guy, huh? Kim Obrist is played by Jennifer O’Neill who’s also been in A Force of One and Rio Lobo for instance.

The story is, of course, not as simple and straight-forward as that and there are lots of twists and turns before the movie ends, but I’m not going to go into that here. You’ll just have to watch the movie to find out! I will say, though, that the final confrontation between Revok and Vale is creepy, visceral and very disturbing to watch.

Cameron Vale is played very well by Stephen Lack, whom you might recognize from Dead Ringers or Perfect Strangers to name a few. In the role of Dr. Ruth we see Patrick McGoohan, a prolific actor known from the TV-series The Prisoner, but also from Ice Station Zebra. The latter being a great action-thriller based on Alistair MacLean’s novel by the same name.

Bless you!

Bless you!

So? Did it hold up then? Yes, I thought it did! I like this movie and always have. The story is ok, the effects are creepy as hell and the acting is good too. It’s almost like it’s a bit off or flat at times, but that’s ok, because, as I understand, it’s supposed to be that way. Clinical, might be a good way to describe it. Oh, and in case you’re wondering… Yes, it was trimmed down when it was first released in Sweden.

Five cuts were made with a total time of 1 minute and 39 seconds!

So, my friends, once again I find myself finishing with the musical score for a movie. The score for Scanners was composed by a man whose name I’m sure you’ll recognize. His name is Howard Shore, who’s responsible for the music in movies like Gangs of New York, The Aviator and also the Lord of the Rings trilogy to name just a select few on a long list. The one for Scanners is very effective and is actually very disturbing.

On that note is where I’ll leave you this week, but please leave your thoughts in the comments section below. I’d love to hear your opinion on this flick too!

Until next time…

“10 seconds: The pain begins! 15 seconds: You can’t breathe! 20 seconds: You explode!”


About Peter Nielsen

Peter was born in Denmark in 1968, but moved to Sweden at the age of six, (not by himself of course), and has lived there ever since. He’s married and has five children, so spare time is somewhat of a luxury. His main interests in life, apart from his family, are long walks, books and movies. Any movie! He has preferences, but he’s not particular as long as it's good or... so bad it's good... he just LOVES MOVIES!