Sunday, January 31, 2010

The mindblowing power of 'Scanners'

Scanners (aka "Telepathy 2000") (1981)
Starring: Steven Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Michael Ironside, Jennifer O'Neill and Lawrence Dane
Director: David Cronenberg
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

When a private security company's program to develop psychics/psionicists as a company resource (referred to as "scanners") comes under attack from the secret organiation of scanners led by crazed megalomaniac Darryl Revok (Ironside), Dr. Ruth (McGoohan) recruits powerful scanner Cameron Vale (Lack) to locate and perhaps even capture him. But as Vale investigates, he uncovers a tangled conspiracy that is even more frightening and deadly than the powers of the scanners themselves.

"Scanners" is a fast-paced, exciting movie that exists on the ground where sci-fi and horror meets the spy thriller. It's a John Grisham or Robert Ludlum novel with psionicists instead of lawyers and/or spies. The movie oozes atmosphere and tension in every scene... and the exploding head in the film's first five minutes really is a sign of things to come: The plot twists and the ethical issues raised in this film will blow your mind as you watch it unfold.

If you're looking for an intelligent, well-written and well-acted sci-fi flick with horror overtones, you can't go wrong with "Scanners". It's a film that was so good it not only spawned its own sequels ("Scanners II", "Scanners III" and "Scanners: The Showdown") but also two installments of the "Scanner Cop" series. None of these films come close to the original, however. If you haven't seen it, I can't recommend it highly enough.

(BTW, a dim memory of this film was one of the inspirations for my "Mind Over Matter" d20 Modern RPG supplement from a few years ago. I was gratified to see that this was one of those rare cases where my memory of the film held up to watching it again.)

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