There were key movies in my life that helped to make me who I am today. Movies that I have loved from the moment the opening credit rolled and still love now. This blog series is about those, My guilty pleasures, my favorites, my escapes. Some were very popular, others not so much. Some of these will have some real life take-aways, others are just for fun. Today we discuss Scanners.
Today’s Key Movie:
Scanners. Humans who have developed mental abilities to read minds and kill with their thoughts. When one of these scanners decides to start a revolution, the industry responsible for them sends their own scanner to hunt his own kind. Starring Jennifer O’Neil, Patrick McGoohan, Stephen Lack and Michael Ironside, this film, directed by David Cronenberg has become a cult hit.
Why this movie?
This is one of the quintessential VHS films from my childhood in the 80’s and 90’s. Having been released in 1981, I know I never saw it in theaters but I do remember seeing it on the shelf at our local video store.
Let me set the stage, it likely a Friday night and, like the beginning of every weekend, my father and I were hunting the video store for movies to watch over the weekend. It had become our favorite past time ever since we brought our first VHS player home and, even though my dad hated the idea of a paid membership, we took our video rental card to the local shop and began to browse. This was likely the mid ninties, well after the films release and, after walking past the new releases (which were far too expensive), we went back to the horror and scifi sections to see what we could find. Walking past films we had seen like Firestarter and Nightmare on Elmstreet, my eyes landed on the image of Michael Ironside with white eyes in mid scream. Looking at the cover, I read the tag line, 10 Seconds the Pain Begins, 15 Seconds you can’t breathe, 20 Seconds you explode and knew that this was the film I had to see. It had everything, the creepy cover, the clever tag and, when my dad saw that Patrick McGoohan was in it, he was sold.
We took it home and witnessed a film unlike I had seen. This was probably my first exposure to a David Cronenberg film so I had no idea what to expect. Much like the the scene that has become a famous gif, my mind was blown.
You like it, but is it really a ‘good’ movie?
This question is very subjective when it comes to this film. In terms of a horror or scifi film it is very different and, if you don’t know this going in, you may find yourself dissapointed. This film is among a run of films during the 80’s that defined Cronenberg for me. Between The Brood, Videodrome, The Deadzone, The Fly and Dead Ringers, I found myself obsessed with the man known as The Baron of Blood. His was an interesting vision taking horror to strange and fascinating places often playing with your perception of the world.
The reason I love Scanners so much is that it is one of the earliest films about mutants and clearly echos that of the X-Men comics and films that I would come to love. It is a dark and ultra-realistic vision of what people would be like if they had the ability to read minds. Many people think that telepathy would be an amazing ability, but imagine not being able to turn it off, to have everyone’s thoughts and ideas hit you all at once creating a cacophony of sound and noise in your head at all times. Now, imagine being able to strike back using that pain caused by this constant barrage to silence those voices or take the information you need from them forcibly. This is where Scanners comes in.
Part Police investigation, part assassination plot, part secret project revelation, Scanners is a film that explores the nature of people and the secrets they hold inside. It is a slow burn, one that builds over time providing a payoff at the end that leaves you wondering what could come next in this very realistic universe of mutant abilities. Enhanced with a kinetic synthetic score by Howard Shore, Scanners is a visceral and cerebral film that is definitive of Cronenberg’s unique vision. In a way, this film could also be the inspiration for much of our modern scifi horror even video games such as Resident Evil, Parasite Eve and even the Metal Gear series.
OK, where do I get this movie?
You can pick up a copy of Scanners via the Criterion Collection here starting at around $20. The restored 2k transfer is tremendous and one that really pops on the small screen.
There were sequels made to this film but are no where near the caliber of this original story. We might eventually get to those here at LTTG, as I vividly remember picking those up as a kid, but I am sure they didn’t age near as well as this the original film.
If you want something classic and have yet to experience the insanity of David Cronenberg, I highly recommend picking up Scanners.
Late To The Game 4/15/2021
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