Sunday, October 13, 2013
Written and directed by David Cronenberg, Scanners is the story of a renegade telepathic/telekinetic person who fights against a corporation in the hopes of wreaking havoc on humanity until that corporation uses a person with the same powers to fight back. The film is a simple battle of good vs. evil where two men with telepathic/telekinetic powers fight each other in an all-out war. Starring Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane, and Michael Ironside. Scanners is an intense yet powerful film from David Cronenberg.
The film is essentially a classic tale of good vs. evil in which a young telepathic/telekinetic person is asked by a corporate doctor to fight against a man with similar powers who is waging war on humanity. It’s a premise that is quite simple yet it is filled with these very complex stories about these individuals who are called scanners as they have a hard time dealing with society as they are able to hear other people’s thoughts and sometimes hurt them with their minds. Especially as a man named Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside) is already gathering whatever scanners he can get to wage war on humanity and fight whoever, including other scanners, oppose him. This forces a lonely scanner named Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) to be captured by a corporation called ConSec who want to use him but he finds comfort in Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan) who would teach him how to control his powers.
David Cronenberg’s screenplay does have a traditional plot in how it plays to a corporation’s reaction to this danger threat and a doctor trying to teach another man how to control his powers. The first act is about the terror that Revok creates where he infiltrates a press conference where he blows up a man’s head with his mind while Vale is being cared and mentored by Dr. Ruth. The second act is about Vale’s attempt to find Revok through a few other scanners where he would meet another scanner that Revok is targeting in Kim Obrist (Jennifer O’Neill) who has organized her own group to resist Revok. Yet, they encounter forces from Revok that causes trouble where Vale makes a discovery but also realizes there’s a traitor where its third act is about confronting the traitor and Revok. Though some of the plotting isn’t perfect as it becomes pretty obvious who the traitor is, it sort of deflates a bit of the suspense though the outcome of what the individual would do manages to intensify the drama and the stakes that are played out.
Cronenberg’s direction is very stylish in not just the way he plays out the drama and suspense but also infuse with some high-octane action and chilling horror. Notably as the opening sequence set in a mall in Toronto plays to that element of suspense and horror where Cronenberg uses some stylish compositions and moods to play up Vale’s attempt to evade capture from ConSec. Cronenberg would use close-ups to showcase the scanners scanning on various individuals as well as medium and wide shots to showcase the world they live in and how alienated they feel. Since the film is set in Toronto where Cronenberg uses the place as another character in the film. It creates a world where civilization is still thriving but unaware of these scanners who have the power to kill them with their minds.
The direction also has Cronenberg upping the ante as far as violence and horror is concerned. The scene at the press conference is really the starting of point of what’s to come though the opening scene of Vale in the mall scanning on an old lady is tame to what Revok does in the press conference. The violence is definitely stylized and intense where there’s some explosions as it would lead to this climatic showdown between Vale and Revok as it involves some amazing makeup effects and horror that is presented in film. Overall, Cronenberg creates a thrilling and stylish good-and-evil film that is exciting as well as fucking gory.
Cinematographer Mark Irwin does brilliant work with the cinematography to create some colorful look for some of the film‘s interior setting as well as some lighting set-ups for the scenes at night. Editor Ronald Sanders does some fantastic work with the editing as he goes for an array of styles that includes dissolves, jump-cuts, and slow-motion cuts to play out the action and horror that occurs in the film. Art director Carol Spier does excellent work with the look of the corporate buildings that Vale and Dr. Ruth live in as well as some of the locations in Toronto.
Costume designer Delphine White does nice work with the costumes as it is mostly casual with the exception of some of the corporate suits in the film. Special effects makeup artist Dick Smith does phenomenal work with the makeup from the way veins would pop up as well as the makeup work in the film‘s climatic showdown. Sound editor Peter Burgess does terrific work with the sound to create an atmosphere in the suspense as well as distorting some of the dialogue when there are people who are being scanned. The film’s music by Howard Shore is wonderful for its mixture of brooding electronics and heavy orchestral arrangements to play out the suspense and horror as well as upping the tempo for the action scenes.
The film’s cast is amazing as it features some notable small roles from Mavor Moore as the ConSec CEO, Louis Del Grande as the unfortunate presenter at the press conference, Robert A. Silverman as a scanner named Benjamin Pierce whom Vale questions about Revok’s whereabouts, and Lawrence Dane in an excellent performance as ConSec’s chief security officer Keller who doesn’t like Dr. Ruth’s methods as he tries to do things his own way. Patrick McGoohan is superb as Dr. Paul Ruth as a man who guides Vale into using his powers for good while dealing with the sins he might’ve caused in his past. Jennifer O’Neill is wonderful as Kim Obrist as a fellow scanner who had been organizing a peaceful community for scanners as she becomes threatened by Revok and his forces.
Stephen Lack is brilliant as Cameron Vale as a young scanner who tries to deal with his powers as well as what Revok is doing while learning more about himself and the scanners that he meets. Finally, there’s Michael Ironside in an awesome performance as Darryl Revok where Ironside plays it cool while having that sinister look in his face whenever he wants to create havoc.
Scanners is an incredible film from David Cronenberg. Featuring a great cast and some amazing makeup effects by Dick Smith. The film is definitely not just one of Cronenberg’s finest films but also one of the coolest horror films of the 1980s. Especially in the way it creates mind-blowing sequences including exploding heads. In the end, Scanners is a marvelous film from David Cronenberg.
David Cronenberg Films: Stereo - Crimes of the Future - Shivers - rabid - Fast Company - The Brood - Videodrome - The Dead Zone - The Fly (1986 film) - Dead Ringers - Naked Lunch - M. Butterfly - Crash - eXistenZ - Spider - A History of Violence - Eastern Promises - A Dangerous Method - Cosmopolis - Maps to the Stars - Crimes of the Future (2022 film)
The Auteurs #26: David Cronenberg: Pt. 1 - Pt. 2
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