David Martin looks at probably one of the most well known horror films of the Eighties, and narrowly avoids losing his head..
I've never seen anyones head explode quite like this before, it was supposed to be a controlled experiment. Showcasing ConSec's latest development in groundbreaking neural research was going to herald a new era and its totally safe. Well, it was supposed to be and probably would have been but they didn't factor in Darryl Revok with their plans. Revok is a renegade scanner and he has declared war on ConSec in a very destructive way. The scene in which he causes such a mental tizzy that the ConSec Scanner,conducting the experiment, literally loses his head is one of the defining moments of eighties horror. It was and still is a shocking scene which many horror fans hold as a scene they will never forget. Yet Scanners is so much more than gore filled brilliance it has a kick arse plot as well and earns its place in the hearts of fans world wide.
The 1981 film was written and directed by David Cronenberg and continues his obsessions with the change and evolution of the human condition. For me though the film is all about the sensation that is Michael Ironside and this was the film that transformed me into an Ironsider (label for devoted fans of all things Ironside) He positively drips evil and his final showdown with Cameron Vale is one of horror films biggest showdowns. Its all dripping bodily fluids and rolling white eyes and is still to this day a haunting end to an amazing film. Ironside steals every scene he takes part in, as he always does, and his performance as despotic Revok must rank as one of his best performances ever. His manipulation of deluded scientist Paul Roth is fantastic and the legacy of Roth created in the Scanners threatens to plunge the world into a dark psychotic nightmare world.
Stephen Lack's performance as lost Scanner soul, Cameron Vale, is also worthy of note and as he becomes aware of his potential his character and self confidence builds. Vale's character metamorphosis from down and out hobo, hearing the voices of others, to a Scanner in control of his own destiny is one of the films key hooks. Revok's attempts to manipulate Vale are flawed because the two men are very different at a core level. This is a classic power struggle but elevated to a nerve shredding level but at the same time never feels forced or contrived. We have long known that experimental drugs are, or were, tested on pregnant women and the efforts of Roth are not entirely set within the realms of fantasy. It also a well established fact that areas of the brain are not used to full capacity so the concept of nurturing and developing extra sensory abilities has some basis in scientific possibility. With Scanners, Cronenberg turns this concept up to level which truly chills and his exploration of what these experiments can create are truly horrifying, Revok is a product of genetic manipulation yet he also has the ability to harness his power for evil, its his choice.
Scanners is a film that will always be on my watch list and it is one of the best that eighties horror has to offer. Join us on Thursday at 11pm or your head might explode, possibly!
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Photos from IMDB