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SCANNERS (1980)

Directed by David Cronenberg

Starring Stephen Lack and Jennifer O'Neill

Flawed Cronenberg film about a special breed of people who suffer from debilitating mental illness that essentially renders them schizophrenic. Without a new drug, they can barely survive as normal human beings. As it turns out, these mostly homeless nutcases aren't really schizophrenic, as it first appears. They are in fact scanners—people with the ability to cause pain and suffering in others by simply willing it.

scanners.jpg (9282 bytes)In one infamous scene that really shocked the hell out of people, scanner villain Michael Ironside (who is great in this movie) causes one guy's head to explode. The special effect was achieved by blowing the head off of a carefully crafted dummy with animal brains inside. It has been imitated many times in other movies, particularly in the Scanner sequels.

All of Cronenberg's films are about human decay and this one is no exception. The end pits Ironside against protagonist Lack in a bloody scanner battle featuring absolutely amazing—and disgusting—make-up effects. Unfortunately, despite loads of action and blood, there is precious little suspense driving this film, which wasn't as good as any of Cronenberg's three previous films. He luckily realized he wasn't the best writer in the universe and some of his later (superior) films were penned by others. But the greatest flaw of this film is the acting. Cronenberg is one horror filmmaker who does need to hire the best and the brightest when it comes to acting. Part of the reason "The Brood" was such a phenomenal success is that it had two heavyweights in lead roles: Oliver Reed and Samantha Eggar. Stephen Lack is, well, lacking. Patrick Magee does have a small role as a corporate Scanner expert who mentors Lack. But ultimately, he isn't given enough screen time to really save the movie. Still, it's a classic and it certainly blew people away when it showed up in cinemas in the waning months of the Carter Era.

Followed by the direct-to-video piece of crap, "Scanners 2: The New Order," which didn't involve Cronenberg.

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