Scanners is no means the worst movie David Cronenberg ever made, but you have to admit… the exploding head scene IS pretty awesome.
Scanners tells the story of a race of evil telepaths led by the always great Michael Ironside who want to take over the world by making people’s heads explode. Stephen Lack is a good Scanner who is trained by Patrick McGoohan to infiltrate Ironside’s camp and make his head explode like a taco that’s been left in the microwave for too long.
The major themes of David Cronenberg’s early work are evident in Scanners, but unfortunately the film suffers from some pretty big stumbling blocks that always keep the audience at arm’s length from the movie. The biggest problem is the performance by Stephen Lack as the hero. He’s appropriately named because he simply lacks the qualities of a sturdy leading man, such as charisma, screen presence, and chemistry with the other actors. In fact, in one scene I think he actually got out acted by a sofa. Another setback the film suffers from is the laborious Scanner revolutionaries that really grate on the nerves. Also, the pacing is particularly erratic. After a strong start, the film quickly devolves into a third rate Man from UNCLE episode with Lack infiltrating the bad Scanner organization.
But… those exploding head shots ARE pretty awesome.
Besides the gory special effects, you can savor the intense performance of Michael Ironside. He’s terrific in this flick and went on to star in such classics as Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2, Total Recall, and Starship Troopers. Ironside is particularly great in the final showdown between him and Lack where his eyes start bulging, his veins pop out of his forehead and he starts twitching like your alcoholic cousin with a bad case of the DT’s. The mind bending ending is a doozy, it’s just a shame you have to sit through a lot of boring cloak and dagger stuff to get to it.
As uneven and ultimately unsatisfying as Scanners is you have to admit… the exploding heads ARE awesome. And in my book, a little exploding heads goes a long way.
Cronenberg did the immortal Videodrome next.