Director – David Cronenberg
Cast -Stephen Lack, Michael Ironside, Patrick McGoohan, Jennifer O’Neill, Lawrence Dane, Robert A. Silverman, Lee Broker
Release Year – 1981
Reviewed by John of the Dead
It is a near shame that it took me so long to get to viewing this film. I have always enjoyed David Cronenberg’s work, but never got around to giving this flick a watch. Definitely the film that made his “name” in the genre after “Rabid” and “The Brood”, this flick marks his auteur awakening into pscyho-social commentary with its hard hitting plot and incredible scenes that are sure to be engrained in your mind forever.
There are over 4 billion people on the earth(at the time this film takes place), 237 of them are “scanners”. A scanner has the ability to not only control someone’s mind and bodily functions as well, but fill the person’s head past its boiling point, causing it to explode. A rogue scanner named Darryl Revok(Michael Ironside) has summoned the vast majority of scanners to join his war against the “normal” people, a war in which all who are not scanners will be eradicated. Doctor Paul Ruth(Patrick McGoohan) has managed to locate a scanner that Revok did not locate, a scanner with incredible abilities. The scanner, Cameron Vale(Stephen Lack), has agreed to join Dr. Ruth’s cause against the rogue scanners, a cause that will not only cost him dearly, but one that will leave him heavily outnumbered and outgunned.
This flick is freakin awesome. I loved Cronenberg’s superb direction that came not only with amazing camera work and scene-setting but great onscreen horror and execution that made what could have potentially been a silly watch into one of horror’s finest works. His execution of the “scanning” scenes was superb, as was the musical score which aided very much in the onscreen horror we experience during these epic psycho-battles. This flick paces well, also very much in thanks to Cronenberg’s direction and his intriguing story that wowed me and surpassed my expectations. I have never been a HUGE fan of psychic/mind-control horror films, just because they do not engage me as much as slasher and creature films do. Well, this film had me engaged throughout its 103 minute runtime, a feat I did not see coming but one I will gladly accept.
As I mentioned, story-wise this flick is an awesome watch and gives us much more than a typical “mind-control” story. We get conspiracy, vengeance, greed, and equally important…gore! The “exploding head” scene in this film has to be one of horror’s coolest scenes ever, and it came not only from great direction but great writing. The suspense is there and is expertly calculated and paced by Cronenberg. We also were not given any useless characters, which is something I will always look for when watching/reviewing a film. Even our supporting female protagonist, one of the most common useless characters we get in films(both female and male though), was not a waste of space and actually aided in moving the storyline and providing both comfort and conflict to our lead, Cameron. Time and time again we get a supporting actor of the opposite sex of the lead actor to provide different elements for the audience, and this usually comes at great cost given they are usually underdeveloped and simply there as eye candy or emotional candy. Well, thanks to Cronenberg’s great writing, that does not occur in this film.
Overall, this is an excellent watch that I recommend to all fans of the horror genre. We get great writing, direction, and one of horror’s coolest stories that makes me sure wish I was born a “scanner”.