Scanners, 1981. My Journey into Science-Fiction Part:18.


Hello and welcome back to my Journey into Science-Fiction Part:18. I was thinking of a way to watch science-fiction films that I have might have missed and take a closer look into the ones that I have watched previously. It’s quite a simple idea really as all I have to do is find a connection with each film in order to continue my journey.


In Part:17 I watched The Blob 1988 and if you are wondering how it brought me to todays film, click on the link below.

The Blob, 1988. My Journey into Science-Fiction Part:17.


Scanners is a science-fiction horror film that was written and directed by David Cronenberg. The film stars Stephen Lack, Jennifer O’Neill, Michael Ironside, and Patrick McGoohan and was released in January 14th 1981. Scanners was a success after making $14.3 million at the Box Office from a Budget of $4.1 million. So, what else was happening in January 1981? Hill Street Blues premiered on NC-TV in America and The Tide is High by Blondie reached No.1 in the Charts.

The world is changing as some men and women are born with telepathic and telekinetic powers, these people are called scanners. Darryl Revok is a powerful scanner with a plan for future domination. Doctor Paul Ruth needs someone who can help bring down Daryl and Cameron Vale is dispatched by ConSec to seek him out.

I have to admit that I was pretty creeped out by the Scanners poster as a child and it’s a film that I had somehow avoided, until now. I think starting this journey has made me realise I’m becoming quite the fan of David Cronenberg as I have already reviewed The Fly for this project. There is something really unique in his style and when we meet Cameron Vale Stephen Lack in the shopping mall, I am so impressed with his ability to make a film look like a piece of modern art. There is plenty of colour in the mall but it feels cold and uninviting, add the music by Howard Shore and I’m already out of my comfort zone. Cameron is an outcast of society and when he eats in a café; he can hear the thoughts of two ladies who mention just how terrible he looks. Unfortunately, for one of them, this results in Cameron’s mind sending her into spasms on the floor. Cameron looks like a man out of control and before he can get it himself together, he is chased, drugged and dragged away by a couple of very official looking men. Watching the women shake on the floor left me feeling very uncomfortable and really helps set the tone of the film. I can’t explain it but Cronenberg makes me feel completely vulnerable to feelings and images I always try to avoid. I have to say, this opening sequence reminded me of A Clockwork Orange in some ways and Stanley Kubrick is also a director I admire for the same reasons.


Cronenberg said that the film had been his most difficult to make and the fact he had to write the script while in production just shows how talented he is. I was going to write a full breakdown of the story but after reading some other reviews by writers far talented than me, I found myself a little bored with its structure and I’m wondering why that is? I think the plot is solid but I can see how Cronenberg was just trying to bring it all together. It’s not a bad film by any means but some scenes just seemed a little bland compared to the big money sequences.


I guess the most famous image from scanners is the exploding head scene. I do admire the vision that went into making it work, which included filling it with left over burger meat and blasting the prop with a real shotgun but it’s another head that made a far better impression on me. Benjamen Pierce Robert Silverman is also a scanner and Cameron has tracked him down to try and find the location of Darryl Revok. Benjamin, a successful artist lives is in his studio along with a huge gigantic head. This is when I thought this is actually a little bit more than a body horror film and it could really delve into the human psyche; well until the shotguns started firing. I thought Benjamin was a really interesting character and I have a feeling he was meant to contribute more to this film and I suppose this is when things really started to feel rushed and it puts the whole telekinesis power at a disadvantage. It really doesn’t matter how strong your powers are, if you have a lot of people with guns or even a sniper close by, your brown bread.


I guess that leaves the final battle to talk about and what a fantastic ending it is. Speaking of final battles, I would just like to say just how brilliant Michael Ironside was as an actor and played some superb roles but one of my favourites is his portrayal of Ham Tyler in V and words can’t describe how much I love that TV show. In this final showdown it turns out Cameron and Darryl are actually biological brothers and to add insult to injury, Dr Paul Ruth is the father. Darryl asks Cameron to join him on a crusade to rule the world but Cameron using the same facial expression he has used throughout the entire film, politely declines. I think this is Cronenberg at his best as he uses the talents of those around him to help create a unique vision that belongs to him only. I love the intensity of this scene as Cameron and Darryl’s veins start bulging like a steroid injection on biceps and triceps day.

The moment Cameron starts to pull the flesh from his own face reminded me Raiders of the Lost Ark but done properly. Eventually Cameron bursts into flames and his eyes explode. No to worry though as it turns our Cameron isn’t dead at all, he has simply transferred his own mind into Darryl’s body. It took me a while but I finally realised what Cameron’s burnt corpse reminded me of and it’s the burning monk, 1963! I think that’s why I’m starting to love this director as that picture is so powerful that when you add it to a sci-fi film like this, it really starts to make you think about the real sacrifice humanity has made in the pursuit of freedom.

burning_monkSo, at the end of the day, I really enjoyed this film but I can see how Cronenberg was restricted and given the right chance, he could have created a legacy for Scanners that is far bigger than the one we have now. Watching this film also made me realise the 80’s could be remembered as the most science-fiction decade in history, we were ready to embrace the changes that was coming and the furniture and décor certainly tells you that. Now we have kind of gone back to soft furnishings and taken a step back, a real shame in my opinion. Finally, in an early scene when Cameron is learning about his powers with the Doctor, I thought this is just a poor man’s Matrix so Imagine my surprise later when Cameron uses his powers in the phone box, the circle is now complete!!


So I guess that leaves me wondering where I should go to next in my journey? Well I am going to keep this one pretty simple because this is a film that I have really wanted to watch in a while and now I have my chance. Okay this film is a biopic but there is some low budget science-fiction in there. Howard Shore composed the music for Scanners and eventually worked on Ed Wood 1994 with Tim Burton and that is the film I will be watching next. I have heard so many good films about this film and im curious to see what all the fuss is about.


Thank you for visiting and what did you think of Scanners? I would love to know in the comments below and if you enjoy this review, please give it a share or a like. See you soon for Part:19 of My Journey into Science-Fiction.