Friday, June 24, 2011

Scanners (1981)
CANADA --- science fiction/ horror

Dir: David Cronenberg

We are well aware that most of us lowly humans are only using 10% of our brain power. The mind is a terrible thing to waste, and well most of our minds are wasting away anyway. There are beliefs that some ancient cultures did indeed tap into psychic power and astral planes. Ancient "lost" societies like the ancient Atlanteans and Lemurians (or land of Mu) supposedly utilized their psychic abilities in their infrastructure through psychokinesis. Ideas of psychic abilities helping mankind even stemmed into a secret covert groups during the cold war. Some people will take this phenomenon serious, others will not.

The "doctor" of genre cinema returns with "Scanners", his B-movie follow-up to "The Brood". A film that up until that point was his most successful. In this film, Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan) is a self-proclaimed psycho pharmacist working for a shady corporation known as Consec. On the outside looking in, they are a security systems corporations, but behind the scenes, they are up to far more than that. They have been devoted to the use of individuals with telepathic and telekinetic powers known as "Scanners". Dr. Ruth in fact has a homeless man named Cameron Vale (played by a very wooden Stephen Lack) picked up and brought to a warehouse for safe keeping. He happens to be a vagabond "scanner", and Dr. Ruth recruits him for Consec's own purposes. Ruth also gives him a drug called Ephemerol, which allows "scanners" to suppress the invading thoughts of too many people.

Consec holds a conference with interested parties showing the abilities of what "scanners" are capable of. One of the audience members is a man named Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside) who volunteers himself to be "scanned" by the representative "scanner" of Consec. Unfortunately, he doesn't know Revok is a rogue "scanner" himself, and in the most famous scene of this film, explodes his head before the audience. The officials grab Revok and detain him, but he eventually escapes. In light of this, Consec appoints a new director in charge of security, as they know through Dr. Ruth that Revok is an assassin and intentionally killed the representative "scanner". Dr. Ruth suggests that his new recruit, Vale, may be the only way to finding and killing Revok.

Dr. Ruth then shows Vale footage of Revok from the past, and trains him to be more focused into his powers, and sends him to another "scanner" named Benjamin Pierce (played by director pet Robert Silverman) for help. The guy's living as an eccentric artist, but is soon attacked by assassins under the control of Revok. After the attack, Pierce sends Vale to a small group of other "scanners" who are living in hiding. Among them is a powerful "scanner" named Kim Obrist, who after meeting up with Vale, her group is brutally attacked as well, leaving only her and Vale alive to fend for themselves. When yet another assassin is sent after them, Vale probes the mind of this one, and gets a clue to the whereabouts of Revok through a vial of Ephemerol the assassin is carrying. It leads Vale to infiltrate the labs of the company that produces it, which is run by none other than Revok. When Vale and Obrist return to Consec with this information, they quickly realize there's a mole in the corporation working for Revok and that their only resort to confront Revok head on. Ultimately, this does lead Revok to capture Vale and the conclusion does indeed lead to a face off of horrific proportions.

"Scanners" was an interesting concept back in the 80's. After all, we were just coming out of the very introspective state of the 70's. Besides that, this was coming off of the successful Stephen King vehicle "Carrie", which really launched the whole modern horrific "ESP" sub-genre. Well, unless you want to count "Village of the Damned" and it's lackluster sequel "Children of the Damned". Cronenberg kinda misstepped a little with this vehicle, though it continues the theme of most of his "body horror" films, the story is not what it could be. My personal opinion, Vale probably should have been a little younger, like a teenager. For the most part this was a kinda live action X-Men film, well before they came to the silver screen. The film spawned more than a few sequels and spin offs throughout the decade and into the 90's, mostly taking advantage of the billowing Home Video market. Cronenberg may have based his Ephemerol drug on a real-life drug called Thalidomide, which was used in the 50's for pregnant women and caused severe birth defects for most of the children born.