Thursday, October 11, 2012

'The Exploding Head Scene! You Gotta See the Exploding Head Scene!': "Scanners" (1981)

I have been hearing that for years, and finally took this little piece of gore out to see the exploding head scene so I could get on with my life. Except for the exploding head scene, this film is pretty mediocre.

An evil corporation (are all corporations in sci-fi films evil?) sends a good scanner to kill a bad scanner. Scanners are people who have a vague telekinetic power they achieved after their pregnant mothers took a drug released by the evil corporation. There are good scanners, who gather in little apartments in a circle. They seem to be waiting for the marijuana brownies and the poetry reading. The bad scanners pack heat, and the ability to make people's heads explode. The main good scanner and bad scanner Michael Ironside meet in the end in a silly finale.

Aside from the exploding head scene, this was rather a disappointment. The leading man good scanner, Stephen Lack, is awful. His entire emotional gamut seems to be blank stares and whiny line deliveries. His lines with the over the top Ironside are so flat I thought Ironside might be falling asleep. Patrick McGoohan, as the evil corporation's pawn, slumps in his seat in all his scenes and delivers his lines like he has a mouthful of marbles. Jennifer O'Neill, at the beginning of the end of her career, is simply window dressing to the leading man, running around and ducking for cover. The best actor here is the always underrated Michael Ironside. He relishes his role as the evil scanner, and the movie only lights up when he is onscreen.

Whenever someone "scans," the actor looks intently at the subject and moves his head a little from side to side, bugging his eyes out slightly and sweating a lot. I did the same thing watching this film.

Cronenberg has a good reputation, but I found "Scanners" to be a letdown. He let all his earlier success go to his exploding head. Thank God Ironside is here to make it half-mediocre. (* * *) out of five stars.