This is the first film which saw Cronenberg move into a different direction, one of politics and the bigger external picture, hinted at with his previous films. We venture into a much larger playing field which could emphasis the effects of change on a much larger scale the impact of on society by people who are different.
Scanners follows a similar rule as his previous films, with a chemical introduced during pregnancy creating a super powered mind readers, known as Scanners. OK, so they can do a bit more than read minds, in fact, they can control the actions of other people and in extreme situations, even make their head explode. It’s not long before a rival community of rebel Scanners are plotting to overthrow the ‘controlled’ scanners and even the world of non scanners. There’s back stabbing, conspiracy and corporate gain all thrown in to the mix as the plot unravels.
This is a great film, there’s no question about it, but this is Cronenberg focusing on a more mainstream audience, maybe due to the promise of a bigger budget, bigger name actors or the idea of appealing to a greater audience which toned down the finished result. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t Disney and has some shocking moments but I can’t help but feel diluted here. The exploding heads are still spectacular and probably the best ever captured on film, even though the effects date back 30 years: perfect and shocking. I’d forgotten how amazing they were. The script is great and realistic as usual with Cronenbergs films and once again, the fantastical plot line is believable from the opening scene, carried by fine performances all around. I’ve said it before, but Cronenberg has this masterful skill to bring a realistic performance out of any actor, regardless of how outrageous the plot or situation, it always feels believable.
Mike Ironside, Pat McGoohan, Jen O’Neil and Steve Lack all fill the screen and work well here, but I can’t feel a little disappointed with lack as the lead role. Ironside is outrageously good and realistically, it’s his film through and through.
I’d like to mention the score here too, which is dramatically different in style from his previous films, although still incorporating classic style, a huge electronic intervention washes over the whole movie in sound a vision, even the end credits role with letters typed out on a computer
The film is a brave move for Cronenberg, but I believe it was to be his next feature which would be the biggest step in his career, a film similar in content to that of Scanners, but incorporating elements from his earlier films, emotional and erotic colours and the embrace of physical and mental changing conditions, alongside a corporate conspiracy story line. Scanners was the building block and for this we should be grateful.