Thursday, 3 April 2014

SCANNERS (1981)

 Scanners is one of the most perfect examples of how science fiction and horror can mix to great effect. Written and directed by David Cronenberg, the film features one of the most memorable (and still one of the most shocking) moments in genre cinema - the notorious exploding head. That scene happens quite early in the movie, but from that second onwards, the film grips you to the very end.

A masterpiece of low-key sci-fi and horror in both the physical and psychological sense, Scanners is a bleak and atmospheric thriller with big ideas (and a wonderful score from Howard Shore) which are strong enough to overcome the budget limitations.

With a solid cast featuring Michael Ironside and Patrick McGoohan, the film follows the emergence of a new breed of human, the Scanners, people with potentially dangerous psychic powers. A shady company, ConSec, is seeking out Scanners in order to weaponize them. A Scanner named Revok (Michael Ironside) is waging war against the company, who send another Scanner named Cameron Vale to fight back.


The film had some productions issues (it started shooting before the script was finished, for starters), but the final outcome of the crew's endeavours is excellent, thanks to some creative cinematography throughout and the show-stopping Scanner battle at the film's climax.

While imperfect, Scanners grabbed me straight away thanks to its stunning poster artwork and THAT exploding head scene (how can you not love an exploding head in a movie?), but the film's unsettling story of a hidden war and underlying feeling of unease held me from start to finish. It's a beautiful example of science fiction ideas mixed with an everyday city setting, and the outcome is just wonderful.

There were two direct sequels plus two spin-off movies, and a TV series is still apparently in development, but nothing will match the power, the grime or the impact of that first movie. One of my favourite genre films of all time.

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