Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) is a regular looser. Or so everybody thinks. He has the ability to enter people’s brains and screw up their circuits. At a mall food court he is spotted by two men. They chase him and shoot him with a hypo gun. He passes out and they drag him away.

When he wakes up he is in a warehouse and is tied down. He is approached by Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan). Ruth explains to Vale why he can do the things he does. He tells Vale that he is what is called a Scanner and he has a form of super charged ESP. He tells Vale that what he hears is the thoughts of other people. He tells Vale he can help. Ruth gives him an injection of a drug he calls ephemerol. The voices go away. For awhile.

At a marketing event for a company called ConSec a scanner asks for a volunteer from the audience to be scanned to show them what the experience is all about. Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside) raises his hand. On stage is a table in front of the audience. Darryl sits at the table next to the scanner. The demonstration begins. Revok is a scanner himself. A more powerful scanner than the demonstrator. The demonstrator’s head explodes. The ConSec security force tries to hold Darryl but he escapes. ConSec looks stupid.

Braedon Keller (Lawrence Dane) is head of security for ConSec. He wants to shut the scanner program. Dr. Ruth advocates keeping it open. He thinks that his new scanner, Vale, can help. He tells Vale that Revok is killing all the scanners that don’t join his cause. Ruth has been teaching Vale how to control his abilities. Ruth sends Vale after Revok.

On his journey to take down Revok Vale encounters a small group of scanners. One of the leaders is a woman named Kim Obrist (Jennifer O’Neill). When the rest of the group are killed by Revok and his minions Vale and Kim do some investigating and discover a company called Biocarbon Amalgamate that is manufacturing huge quantities of ephemerol. They decide to bring this information to Dr. Ruth.

Unbeknownst to Ruth, ConSec has been infiltrated by a spy for Revok. Revok plans on creating his own army of scanners to take over the world. Revok also has a deep secret that involves Ruth and his miracle drug ephemerol. A secret that ties the two scanners together more closely than Vale ever expected.

“Scanners” was released in 1981 and was written and directed by David Cronenberg. It is a Canadian science fiction/horror film. The movie was primarily shot in Montreal and Toronto.

The most iconic scene in “Scanners” is the head explosion scene. The eventual effect was created by using a plaster bust of the actor (Louis Del Grande) covered in a gelatin exterior. The bust was filled with fake blood, and various meat scraps and whatever was hanging around in the lab that would splatter. Then the skull was fired on by a shotgun from the back. Shotguns be messy.

Outside of the blood, guts and gore of “Scanners” the movie is, at times, confusing. It takes most of the movie to really figure out what is going on. In between there are nice little spits and spats of gross.

The acting is varied depending on the actor. Stephen Lack as Vale is monotone. Jennifer O’Neil is basically immaterial. Patrick McGoohan is mysterious. Is he good, is he bad? He’s definitely a mad scientist that is slowly unraveling. Lawrence Dane is one of two bad guys and his evil shows a desperation that will do whatever he has to do to save his own skin. Michael Ironside is the devil personified. He is evil with a side of insanity. And he’s really good at it. You basically believe he can explode your head just by thinking about it.

Yes, there are flaws in the film. Sometimes is seems a little scattered and getting from point A to point B is a twisted road that doesn’t always seem to lead anywhere, but the main concept of the movie is what keeps it on everybody’s watch list. That and the head thing. “Scanners” is an industrial spy movie where the mind games are enough to kill you.

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