Saturday, April 25

A Classic in Retro: Scanners (1981)

Directed by David Cronenberg
103 Minutes / 20th Century Fox Home Video / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

Cronenberg is a time-tested genius amongst genre filmmakers. This is the director's second film in what I consider his blooming period just after his breakout feature The Brood and just before the incredible Videodrome. The Canadian filmmakers' influence is substantial yet constrained, quietly rippling through decades of cinema. I imagine other filmmakers perhaps being a little envious in their public marvel of his body of work. The man has a way of conceptualizing highbrow and bold science fiction into contemporary horror that's both easy to digest topically and difficult to fully grasp.

With Scanners, Cronenberg builds a story and film out of damn near nothing. Political power over society by a higher state of the human mind and people trembling. It could have been laughable, but Cronenberg masterfully layers simple ideas and logical twists in such a way as to make one frustrated at the display of ease. A certain intimate menace is injected into the concept of mind control, which the general public most likely equates to quack mystics and popcorn sci-fi. In the world of the scanner, it's as familiar as meeting someone with a "certain something", but just a touch beyond reality into an incredibly frightening power.

There's so many memorable aspects in this film. The most obvious is the spectacular cranium explosion in the first half which still might be the best ever committed to film. Though Revok's mind forced suicide of another man, Ruth's murder, the melting telephone, and the realization that a scanner can scan and become as one with computer technology are all little nuggets that manage to stick in your brain long afterward. It's also refreshing to see an effects-laden climax where the splatter and dazzle are fully justified with the context.

I only have two minor gripes, being Lack's performance being a bit stiff at times and Howard Shore's score sounding phoned in for the most part. All else is orbits around fantastic and Scanners can stand proudly within Cronenberg's cannon. Highly recommended.

Film: 8.5/10
VHS Picture: 7/10 (for a 25 year old tape, it's surprisingly crisp)
VHS Sound: 5/10


Anonymous said...

First time I saw this was on an old VHS too. I rented it from Blockbuster around '96 or '97. I love Cronenberg and this is a real classic.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this when I first saw it, but rewatched it recently and was disappointed. The effects are definitely cool though, and Cronenberg is still my favorite director.

I have to say though, the lead's acting job is so godawful, it pretty much ruins the film - "stiff" is too generous. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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