Scanners Screen 89 of 7 reviews

Scanners

1981

Scanners Poster
  • Watching from the sidelines is the Cronenbergian monster-sculptor (Robert Silverman), a "telepathic curiosity" hiding in a giant stone noggin in his expressionistic atelier. (He taps his temples: "My art... keeps me sane.") The mind and its visceral spillage, the swirling gray matter that turns crimson before a stupefied audience, a Dalí gag (Tête Raphaëlesque éclatée).

  • Scanners ages well. In a cinema presently glutted with pandering hero fantasies of the "one" who's meant to liberate us from corrupt drudgery, it's refreshing to revisit a movie that looks upon such pat optimism with contempt. Angry, narratively pared, and memorably lit in shades of industrial fugue-state gray by cinematographer Mark Irwin, the film certainly fulfills Cronenberg's narrow design, which is also the rub.

  • Every special effect is an idea, and Scanners packs some gnarly hypotheses. The notorious exploding head sequence, originally planned as the opening scene and an object of consternation for the MPAA, is both an outrageous demonstration of telepathic power run amok and the crystallization of a rigorous thematic.

  • Ostensibly about a worldwide conspiracy involving people with violent telekinetic powers... the movie largely takes place in dark, neutral interiors such as office buildings and lecture halls. The decision is a triumph of low-budget filmmaking, far-reaching in its implications: playing up the familiarity of his mise-en-scene, Cronenberg suggests an unexplainable horror behind our most banal routines--much like in the novels of Don DeLilo or the plays of Harold Pinter.

  • Mr. Cronenberg’s bleak sense of fun underlies the horror. One scanner (Robert Silverman) lives in isolation and maintains his tenuous sanity by creating art. These creepy sculptures bring to mind George Segal figures in hospital gowns, deliquesced to resemble diseased, screaming versions of George Lucas’s Yoda, a figure with no place in this deranged galaxy.

  • Movie itself suffers a bit from an excess of plot, and seems fairly tame compared to body-horror nightmares like Shivers and Rabid (the exploding head is basically a sight gag, albeit a good one), but it's still a remarkably assured toe-dip into the mass market, and far more stylishly directed than I'd remembered.

  • One of the most technically proficient of David Cronenberg's early gnawing, Canadian-made horror movies (1981), though it lacks both the logic and the queasy sexual subtext that made his still earlier work—Rabid, They Came From Within—so memorably revolting... Like Tod Browning, Cronenberg doesn't have the stylistic resources to match the forcefulness of his ideas, but his movies remain in the mind for the pull of their private obsessions.

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