[Blu-ray Review] ‘Scanners’ Criterion Should Make Your Head Explode

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After being on hiatus due to debilitating migraine headaches, it is humorous to me that my return to reviews for Bloody Disgusting would start with the recent Criterion release of Scanners. After all, the film is best known the iconic scene of a man’s head exploding.

The 1981 film by David Cronenberg centers around: individuals with telepathic abilities, agencies that want to research and introduce them to the world, some of those individuals that, of course, want to use their gifts for good and those who want to use them for the evil. Along with an overall sense of panic, times of isolation, dread, fear of world dominance (of those evil ones) and a haunting soundtrack, Cronenberg’s film easily is considered a cult classic.

The new Criterion release definitely delivers something that caters to fans of the entire horror genre. The restoration of the film itself, is nice. Dark scenes play with clarity and the score is unsettling as it is uncompressed and uncompromised. (This is my return to writing, I want to sound like I just discovered my thesaurus). The plethora of extras and the extent of their content is highly valuable.  ‘The “Scanners” Way’ is a documentary about the special effects in the film, and will be a favorite by many – even if just due to the few minutes dedicated to the exploding head scene.  ‘Mental Saboteur’ is 20 minutes of Michael Ironside and the development of his character – which was intitially just contained in the reel footage shown to the character Cameron Vale. What movie would it have been without the incorporation of Ironside’s Darryl Revok? The same could be said for actor/artist Stephen Lack. ‘The Ephemerol Diaries’ is a candid 2012 interview that covers Lack’s recollection of shooting the film, with lots of love given to Dick Smith. There is also an excerpt from ‘The Bob McClean Show’ with Cronenberg as a guest. The 12 minute segment covers Cronenberg’s career up to Scanners. It is quite interesting to watch “Canada’s Master of Horror and Baron of Blood” speak freely about his work of the time. Also included is Stereo, Cronenberg’s first feature film from 1969. The hour long film has been restored to the point that it looks like it is a brand new student film. There are trailers and radio spots and a very nice booklet with an essay by Kim Newman.

Scanners has esthetic elements that definitely validate its place in the horror genre. The exploding head scene alone can be considered, at face value, enough to hold such a spot on gore alone. However, elements like scanner Cameron Vale’s panic as he is strapped to a bed and being observed by an increasing number of individuals – all shown in a series of quick cuts – could almost be viewed as a state of cerebral horror as it inflicts the same sense of dread upon the viewer. This borderline unsettling nature of the film is delved into even more so with a simple facial expressions from actor Michael Ironside’s Revok. With spectacular extras and the option of both DVD and Blu-ray in one package, this release is not just for the diehard fans. Scanners is a groundbreaking horror classic in its own right.

 

Official Score