Scanners (1981)


Day 23 of 31

Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Jennifer O’Neill, Steven Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane, Michael Ironside. Canada. 1h 43m

For me early Cronenberg films shine very brightly with imagination and unique fleshy charm. He is certainly one of those directors who can sell a dark concept with a mysterious shroud that gives his audience layers of fear to think through, these concepts were never all that solid but are strong with so many possibilities.

From his early body shocker films like Shivers (1975) and Rabid (1977) he slowly evolved his work to include more science and the emphasis on social interactions gave way to internal chemistry, and in this thriller the mind is the central focus more than the whole body.scanners

Starting out strong, ConSec a private security firm attempts to showcase the abilities of one of their scanners,and boasts a fine tuned collection of mind powers including, telepathy such as mind reading, mind-control, and telekinesis. When the Scanner attempts to interact with a member of the audience, it turns out this individual is a much powerful scanner and the brain battle that ensues leads to one of the most brilliant head explosions ever, i assume Cronenberg couldn’t resist the flesh. The security staff attempt to capture the man but he uses his immense skills to kill the guards and escape.

After a power struggle between ConSec owner Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan) and head of security Braedon Keller (Lawrence Dane), they agree to try and take in this powerful evil scanner believed to be Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside)  to relieve the embarrassment of the earlier tv tragedy and to avoid shutting down the program.

At this point the depressed, homeless, social outcast Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) is brought into ConSec by Dr. Ruth, who injects him with a drug called ephemerol which reduces his scanning abilities and stops the interferences of other people’s thoughts, he very thing that’s driven him mad for many years, Dr Ruth helps Vale control and attune his Scanning abilities and helps him with contacts and information to help him track down Revok. During the chase, Vale makes contact with several scanners, assassins and the beautiful Kim Obrist (Jennifer O’Neil) who teams up with him. Unraveling the mystery and tracking down Revok is hard work but Vale have to hone their skills and take them to new levels to stay alive and fight back,

I first watched this film when i was a kid and used to mimic the “mind scenes” freaking out like I was fitting while heads exploded all over the screen, I do feel that the indulgent overeating is a little cringey for the actors looking back on their career but otherwise it’s a great show all round. For me it wasn’t so much of a joke but the visuals really triggered something within my lame brain. Throughout my adult life those images have always stuck with me, especially the big showdown at the end when Revok (Ironside) and Vale (Lack) go head to head (see what I did there.. ) and their eyes turn white, veins boil and the room catches on fire, it’s a battle of epic proportions and visually it’s quite biblical, in a more demonic biblical sense, I have often commented on how much Ironside looks like the goat from Drag me to hell (2009) in that scene.

Obviously things get quite trippy when a master of mayhem gets behind the camera. At times i feel that Cronenberg struggled with not falling into old traps and habits with the filming,  granted it’s certainly in his style, but one of his most coherent, maybe due to the more complicated conspiracy aspects.

McGoohan’s character always scared me as a kid, I dunno why I found him so freaky, after re watching the film in my adult life I do find him to be a sort of Sci Fi Gandalf, this man knows stuff but he’s selective on how he divulges information.

It’s a brilliant concept of mind over matter taken to the extreme by director of the strange, sterling performances from all the main cast, usual techniques of filming and an engrossing storyline, basically scanners ticks all the right boxes. One factor which is a little strange about the film is that it’s more of a gory thriller on the screen, the real horror is later on while thinking of the implications, I don’t want to give too much away but any government scheme to force feed mother’s enough chemical so their children are born mutants isn’t a happy go lucky idea.



Rating 9/10

R – Firestarter (1984), Scanner Cop (1994),
L – Cronenberg FIlms, Psychic Films.
A – Psychic Studies on Film
5s – Michael Ironside, David Cronenberg,


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