When I was younger, I always thought having a super power or ability like the talent of flight or invisibility would be awesome. As I get older, I realize that Telepathy would probably be a lot cooler. You could read minds, use the power of persuasion, or have the ability to find out what people are thinking – their wants, desires… Cameron Vale (played by Stephen Lack) has that power, but at times it more of a hinderance than it is a gift. You see, he’s a scanner – one of only 237 in the world that has unique telepathic abilities that allows him to control others with his mind – and he’s on the lookout for another person who shares his ability. The problem is, that other person is on the wrong side.
Scanners starts out by showing us a Cameron as derelict. He’s eating off of other’s plates in a mall food court when an incident with an older woman has his on the run from some trenchcoated individuals. He gets caught by those trechcoat dudes and gets taken to a military contractor, ConSec, where he meets Dr. Paul Ruth (played by Patrick McGoohan). Dr. Ruth (No, not that Dr. Ruth) tells Cameron about another scanner who’s been recruiting other scanners into a sort of underground organization who’s goal is to destroy civilization as they know it. That other scanner? His name is Darryl Revok (played by Michael Ironside) and he recently infiltrated a ConSec scanner demonstration where he was able to blow apart one of their staff scanner’s heads.
After training from Dr. Ruth, Cameron develops the power to control his ability with the help of their drug “ephemerol”. He goes out in search of Revok and meets another group of scanners. They aren’t affiliated with Revok’s underground, and they aren’t affiliated with ConSec either. After another confrontation, he and scanner Kim Obrist (played by Jennifer O’Neill) are again hot on Revok’s trail. Will Cameron find and defeat Revok, or will Revok persuade him to join the underground?
This is probably my favorite David Cronenberg movie. While I haven’t seen them all, I think this one has a great premise and has a few nice twists that you won’t see coming. Most of the acting is really up there, with the exception of Stephen Lack, who turns in a really wooden performance. His lines are delivered stiffly, and a lot of his “scanning” scenes consist of showing his face with his eyes wide open, staring off into space.
Another great thing about this movie is Michael Ironside. Again, this is one of his best performances. I’ve seen him in a lot of different roles, and he’s always on top of his game when he’s playing as a bad guy. Thankfully, this is right up his alley and he does an awesome job. In a way, you really hate him because he’s just that bad, but in another, you have to envy him because he is a total badass. His power is almost limitless and when he bursts the ConSec’s egghead (which is totally awesome, and you can watch it in the clip below), it really puts the dot under the exclamation point.
All that being said, this movie does have it’s flaws. Some of the story leaves you scratching your head, especially the ending. Stephen Lack’s performance can be a distraction. His awful delivery can take you right out of the movie at times. There’s also the idea that the scanners can hack computer systems because “Computer’s have a nervous system, scanners have a nervous system… You can access it!” Uhhh, what?
This film is from 1981, so some of the styles are a little laughable and dated, but if you have an itch for a horror/sci-fi/thriller – this should be the perfect scratch for you. Don’t forget – “We’re gonna do this the scanner way. I’m gonna suck your brain dry!”