I have pretty mixed feelings about David Cronenberg on the whole. The Fly is obviously a classic, and The Dead Zone is one of my all time favourite movies (“The ice is gonna break!”) On the other hand, I think Crash might be the single most overrated movie I’ve ever seen. I could rant about it, and my aversion to James Spader, for this entire review. So what about Scanners?
Well, first of all the positives... This movie is full of nice touches, as you’d expect from Cronenberg. The special effects are superb (the head explosion is particularly amazing). The premise of the movie is interesting, it’s dark and gritty. Revok (played by Michael Ironside) is a great villain. I love every scene that he’s in and found myself wishing he was in the movie more. I think his character (and why he has turned out the way he has) is probably the most interesting aspect of the film.
However, the greatest problem with the movie is the actor playing the lead role of Cameron Vale. I’m not sure if a side effect of being a scanner is that you are devoid of personality, but it seems that way with the acting of Stephen Lack (insert joke about fitting last name here). He is incredibly bland, never showing an ounce of any real emotional range (the Mark Wahlberg of his generation) and the film suffers as a result. It’s really difficult to care about what is happening to him. I would have much preferred the focus to be on Revok, who was just much more interesting.
It’s a solid film, although I wouldn’t say that it’s one to watch if you are looking to be scared. In some ways it feels more like a sci-fi/thriller than horror (exploding heads excepted). A solid addition to the roster of films we’ve watched over the years, but it won’t be remembered as one of the greats at horror club.