Scanners (1981) Review

Scanners is a sci-fi thriller released in 1981. It came to the attention of The Story Monster through a YouTube compilation of the scariest scenes from horror movies. A man’s head swelled up like a balloon and exploded in front of a crowd of people, which warranted a Google search for context. After viewing the entire film, it’s safe to say Scanners earned its place on that list.

Directed by David Cronenberg, the story is about a terrorist, Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside) with telepathic powers waging war against regular human beings. A scientist, Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan) enlists the help of another telepath, Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) to stop him. This film isn’t for everyone, as it’s a slow burn and full of intricate concepts such as telepathy, telekinesis, mind-reading, and clairvoyance. The action is plentiful with scenes that contain serious gore.

Cronenberg has a reputation for creating films with body horror. Scanners provide that in spades. However, the pacing is a bit off, with long shots that linger too long without meaning. Some lines of dialogue are delivered with the enthusiasm of sand, particularly with Cameron. Exposition is spread gracefully throughout the narrative. The world is grounded with plenty of interesting plot threads and reveals.

Scanners is an espionage movie at heart. Shady government agents, conspiracy coverups, and experimental drugs. It holds up pretty well and is ripe for a modern take or possible reboot if done correctly. The movie has powerful imagery and set pieces. This movie is worth seeing for sci-fi horror fans who don’t mind excessive B-roll footage and epic violence from the 80s. Scanners gets a 7 out of 10.

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