12 February 2011

Fin's Review: Scanners

Scanners' most famous moment comes in the first five minutes: the image of the exploding head is what defines this film (if you want evidence of its influence, check out the Family Guy scene where Peter eats a fudgsicle in one bite, winces, screams, then his head explodes). It is an extraodinary scene (the Scanners version, obviously, not Family Guy) and perhaps one of the best pieces of evidence of the damage the CGI has rought on film in general and especially on the horror film genre. The exploding head was filmed by filling a balloon with rabbit kidneys and then exploding it. The result is fantastic and makes any Michael Bay-style CGI look staid and artificial in comparision.

However, if you put aside this scene, what does the film have to offer?

David Cronenberg is a controversial figure and is widely reviled by many critics. He has endured accusations of misogyny for his portrayal of women and motherhood in The Brood (1979) and been criticised more generally for his icky nihlistic vision of humanity. There is no doubt that Cronenberg's films are complex and often difficult to watch, particularly due to his obsession with body horror and issues surrounding infection and corruption of the body. Cronenberg had argued that all of his films should be viewed from the 'point of view of disease'. This is particularly true of Scanners, which I see as Cronebergs attempt to deal with madness.

This is one of Cronenberg's most coherent films, in which he eschews some of the weirder elements of his experimental movies and instead focuses on creating a solid story. The film establishes a gritty and dark atmosphere from the opening scene and doesn't let up. Cronenberg paints a picture of a world where powerful corporations play with biology for their own dark goals. A vision of reality which is scarily not too distant to our own society. Some of the set pieces are spectacular none, more so than the final showdown between Cameron Vale and Darrly Revok.

Michael Ironside gives a brilliant performance as the manaical leader of the Scanner underground and he is in all of the film's best scenes. Dr Paul Ruth is a very intriguing character and is played to perfection by Patrick McGoohan.

As noted by the Ally and Clarky, there is no getting away from the fact that Stephen Lack is an appalling actor and does have a detrimental effect on the film as its protagonist Cameron Vale. Despite this, Scanners is still a dark and affecting vision of madness and corporate power.

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