New To Blu: Criterion Collection - Scanners

Scanners gets a mind blowing release on Criterion blu-ray today.

"Excuse me, sir. Do you
have a tissue?"
Scanners is one of David Cronenberg’s most underrated films; while it isn’t as good as some of his other filmography, it showcases some of the subversive themes he became famous for in later movies. It’s mainly a sci-fi/horror movie but Cronenberg manages it make it a little more interesting by inserting a clandestine spy vibe into the plot as well as some twists and turns along the way.

We follow the exploits of Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack), a “scanner” who doesn’t understand his powers and who has relegated himself to living on the outskirts of society as a result. “Scanners” are individuals who have the power to read minds and to control the bodies of the people they “scan”; often with terrifying results. Vale has to find the whereabouts of a renegade scanner named Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside) and stop him from using his formidable powers for evil.

"Tums........Too much Taco Bell!"
Unfortunately, Stephen Lack puts in one of the most wooden performances I have ever seen in a film. He does not have the presence to carry being the protagonist and his line delivery is dull and lacks emotion. On the flip side, Michael Ironside is outstanding as the sociopathic Revok; he basically saves the film and is riveting every time he appears on screen.

The special effects in Scanners are excellent and there are several gruesome sequences with top-notch make-up and gore effects. When someone is getting “scanned” they start undergoing great psychic and physical distress; it is very disconcerting to see them go through it. Everything is heightened by the excellent musical score and sound design. Often times, sound design goes unnoticed in films but when it is done well it really enhances the experience of the movie.

The picture quality has been restored in the Criterion Blu-ray release and it looks awesome. Everything is very crisp, clean and bright and the general look and feel of the film has aged well. The technology in the film is very outdated which can add some unintentional hilarity to some scenes but that is part of the fun of watching old ‘80s flicks.

"Haaaaaa. I can see your panties!"
There is a definite anti-corporation theme running through the plot of Scanners and this would mark the beginning of Cronenberg’s foray into having deeper political and social commentary in his work.  He would dive headfirst into this concept in his next film Videodrome, and it’s interesting to see him dip his toes into it in Scanners. While Scanners isn’t his best film by far, it’s still worth checking out and is a decent body-horror flick with a B movie feel. The Criterion release is highly recommended as it is the definitive edition of this film.

-Michelle Kisner