Scanners (1981)

8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 9/10

Head exploding scene and final battle, Michael Ironside

Uneven story and so-so acting

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Scanners

Studio:  Avco-Embassy Pictures

Genre(s):  Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror

Release Date(s):  January 14, 1981

MPAA Rating:  R


Let’s get Scanning…

There is a secret society living amongst humans.  People called Scanners are able to harness their mental powers and use their abilities to control others minds.  A man named Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside) is using his powers for evil and a company called ConSec needs a secret weapon to stop him.  Recruiting a man named Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack), Vale for the first time learns he is not alone in his ability and teams with another Scanner named Kim Obrist (Jennifer O’Neill) to try to stop Revok…Vale could discover that there is more to Revok than it appears.


Boom, goes the dynamite!

Directed by David Cronenberg, Scanners is a Canadian sci-fi horror film.  The movie was met with moderate to positive reviews and praised for its special effects.  Since the release of Scanners, the film has become a cult classic and has been released in a remastered edition by Criterion (Criterion #712).

Growing up Scanners was one of those movies you just identified by one scene.  Scanners was the movie where a guy’s head blew up.  I can remember my friend and I watching Terror in the Aisles and using our VCR to go frame by frame through the head blow-up scene to see how it was done.  Yes, the head blowing up scene is the most memorable part of Scanners, but the film does have merit beyond this.


We are the masters of intense staring!!!

I like Cronenberg, and I really like his early stuff.  Scanners is pretty mainstream and straight forward when compared to Shivers (1975), Rabid (1977), and The Brood (1979) that were more charged with interesting subjects, but Scanners is a sci-fi horror film.  The story drags at points and over complicates itself with secret relationships and conspiracies, but it is a nice thriller…the shame is that it could be better with some amped up storytelling like in Cronenberg’s older films.

I find Stephen Lack and Jennifer O’Neill rather bland as the main leads of the film.  The scene stealer is Michael Ironside as the psychotic Revok who really dominates his scenes.  Ironside has made a life of playing these crazed characters and this is one of his early starring roles.  Underused is The Prisoner star Patrick McGoohan as  Dr. Paul Ruth and you have to give a hand to Louis Del Grande who plays the victim of the head explosion scene…even if it is just a model of his head.


Scanners…It will melt your eyes!

The exploding head is obviously the big effect of Scanners, and it really kicks off the film.  Secondary to the head explosion is the rather big climatic battle between Revok and Vale.  The scene is rather gruesome and gory, but doesn’t rival the head blowing up…it is like going on the biggest roller coaster at a park then going back and riding the smaller coasters afterwards…they don’t compare.

Scanners is an uneven but fun film.  The movie had an effect on horror and sci-fi and concepts from the film have been borrowed since its release.  Scanners popularity did lead to Scanners II:  The New Order in 1991.  There has been talk of a remake of Scanners for years and a TV series has been pitched on the concept.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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