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How ‘Scanners’ Iconic Head Explosion Scene Was Pulled Off

Ever wonder how they got Louis Del Grande’s head to explode in Scanners? While most people’s first guess would logically be “explosives,” it was actually a lot more tricky (and awesome) than that.

For their new Blu-ray release of the film, the Criterion Collection talked with photographer Mark Irwin, special effects supervisor Gary Zeller, and makeup artists Stephen Dupuis and Chris Wallas about the effect. The guys explain the difficulties in creating the now-iconic moment, saying how they made several attempts to make it look real before finally deciding to do things the old fashioned way.

Check out the video below for the whole, messy story.



  • Chandler Of-Adelaide

    Apart from this scene, never understood why people liked this film. It was so dull.

  • Tina Conrad

    Never heard of the movie but that shot was awesome!

  • Martin Cann

    The Savini Method. Patent pending.

  • SaltSlasher

    Savini had me inspired before I even knew what he did. Like replicating what he did in Dawn of the Dead then finding out later Savini was responsible for a lot of gore I watched growing up. But Zeller was also apart of that, and he is a genius even if he is only in a couple notable films. The only other I know of is Visiting Hours, and that was only cause I was recently looking at cast because it was amazing crew for such a non-popular film. I mean they had Shatner and Lee Grant, Inge as the makeup,

  • Well now I know what to do for filiming headshots :p

  • Drool Bear

    Just re watched this on cable the other day and even though the acting was all that great, the practical effect were phenomenal for its day. Who ever did the prosthetic nailed it. The blood veins expanding and filling up on the arms and faces looked so real. The head exploding is just classic. Maybe the eye popping scene could have been worked a little better, but who really knows what eyes look like when they pop from psychic energy? I do remember seeing this in the theaters with my sister and when the head exploded, everyone in the audience screamed except for my sister and I. We just laughed hysterically. Yeah, we got some looks after that.

  • ThunderDragoon

    I still have yet to see this movie. Is it worth watching or is it only good for the head explosion scene?

  • maxruehl

    The story is actually a bit more interesting than that. I worked briefly
    on Vigilante as an assistant to Gary Zeller and he told me the story of
    how the Scanners head explosion was accomplished. It was basically the
    story as told here with one further, rather crucial detail. The shotgun
    shells Zeller used were loaded with dried lentils. That way there would
    be no danger of buckshot ricochets. He figured after they did the
    desired damage to the dummy head, the lentils would just disintegrate on
    contact with the ceiling. :) (And yes, Martin–Zeller also told me that he got that technique off of Savini when they did Dawn Of The Dead together.:) )

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