Story: Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside) is a “scanner,” someone with telepathic abilities, but Revok isn’t just a scanner, he is likely the most powerful scanner on the planet. He is also the leader of an underground movement, one that seeks to position Revok and his fellow scanners in positions of power all over the world. This plot for global domination might sound like a pipedream, but with his immense mental powers and a militia of skilled scanners, there is more than a small chance that his plan could prove to be a successful one. But Revok has to contend with a well funded, powerful corporation that also has plans to use scanners to gather power, while also trying to prevent Revok’s own ambitions. In an effort to stop Revok, the corporation recruits a scanner named Cameron (Stephen Lack), who has potential, but isn’t fully able to harness his abilities yet. As both sides clash for power, who will win the battle for mental supremacy and control of the entire globe?
Entertainment Value: Scanners is best known for one jaw dropping, head exploding sequence, but there’s more to this David Cronenberg classic than one scene. The narrative blends horror, sci-fi, and social commentary, all woven together in a seamless package that ensures it is a well crafted horror picture, but one with a message. The focus on corporations rising to positions of untouchable power was prophetic to say the least, so it remains relevant in that sense and the premise also helps Scanners feel less dated, since it is still a vital topic. As a horror movie, this is a dark, tense experience that hits all the right notes as far as atmosphere and dread. I think the pace is good, more so in the second half, once the players are established and some exposition has bee cleared. So while the movie is a little uneven before that point, stick it out, as the less effective elements fade out once the narrative is rolling, then the movie takes us on a more focused, even wilder ride. The visuals are well done and of course, some of the special effects are not just good, but hall of fame level, especially that head pop. Scanners has its flaws, but I think it is a great movie that has held up quite well.
I would be interested in Scanners regardless of the cast, but Michael Ironside is a performer that would have drawn me in, even if I wasn’t interested at first glance. I think Ironside brings a lot to the table and no matter the size of his role, he is often able to elevate the material and if nothing else, add a big positive to even the most forgettable pictures. In this case however, Ironside has material he can sink his teeth into and he runs with that, giving us a strong, memorable performance where he is given more of a lead role than usual. Ironside often appears in supporting roles, where he still manages to steal the show, but here he gets a lot of screen time and he puts it all to good use. A terrific effort that Ironside’s fans are sure to delight in and a sure indicator that he could have easily handled more lead roles. The cast also includes Patrick McGoohan, Jennifer O’Neill, and Stephen Lack.