Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Month of Terror: Scanners (1981)

Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Stephen Lack, Jennifer O'Neill, Michael Ironside

Scanners isn’t so much a horror film as a sci-fi one, but it’s really just splitting hairs as it’s a pretty decent movie all the same. Directed by the ever-idiosyncratic David Cronenberg, this is one of those movies that you don’t get every day. The concept is about a race of psychics called Scanners, who are in some kind of underground war as a deranged leader tries to either assimilate them to his dark cause or kill them off. The main character is a guy named Cameron Vale, who doesn’t know he’s a Scanner until he accidentally makes a woman break out into a fit in the middle of a populated mall. Seeing potential in him, a doctor sends him out to try and stop the evil Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside), who is growing in power every day.

First off, I’d like to thank Scanners for providing the Internet with a timeless meme and a useful expression for those moments that quite frankly blow your mind:

This happens, out of nowhere, like 15 minutes in; maybe less. It's seriously a shocking moment and really starts things off with a bang, getting you really excited for the movie to follow. What's gonna happen next? How can they follow THAT?

Sadly I really think this is a bit of an uneven film. The first half is absolutely wonderful, with a great build up, an intriguing sci-fi world which draws the viewer in and tons of suspense. Watching Vale go on this fantastic adventure is just great, as he meets several characters and discovers new plot elements with every scene. The whole thing just unravels, though, with the second half, which is just slow and weird. I guess it’s not actively bad or anything, but it’s just so lackluster and so meandering that it just doesn’t work. Protip, guys: A climax with two guys just staring at each other and screaming didn’t work for Dragonball Z, either.

Third, the acting is a bit wacky. Stephen Lack is not a very good actor at all, as he has precious little charisma or emotional range at all, and mostly just sticks to a cardboard monotone the entire time. They really couldn’t have gotten anyone better for this role? The main chick is alright I guess, at least compared to Lack. Michael Ironside is fun, but he doesn’t get much screentime. What gives?

So yeah, a great premise and build-up soiled by a lackluster climax and third act in general. Scanners is an OK movie, and it’s definitely got its good points, but I’d recommend going for Videodrome instead.