Saved from the streets by understanding ConSec corporation employee Dr. Paul Ruth (The Prisoner’s iconic Patrick McGoohan), Vale is recruited to seek out the psychotic Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside), a dissident scanner with world domination on his twisted, utterly destructive mind. It’s soon revealed that the unhinged Revok – who bears a distinctive scar on his forehead after an incident with a drill – is building a personal army of brain-pilfering soldiers with which to enslave humanity. Thus, the conflicted Vale sets off to track down his mark whilst encountering other, more peace-loving members of his unique biological sub-order, including pacifist scanner Kim Obrist (Jennifer O’Neill).
Still one of Cronenberg’s finest hours (with perhaps only 1986’s The Fly and 1988’s Dead Ringers towering above it), Scanners is a dark and ruthlessly observed satire on both the American pharmaceutical industry and the rise of conformity culture, showing the cataclysmic results of enforced ‘groupthink’ upon a vulnerable cross-section of modern society. Complex mental illness is implied in each scanner, with Robert A. Silverman particularly well-drawn as a homicidal telepath-turned-conceptual artist; the formerly untapped resources of his mind freed from their restraints, yet suppressed through a zen-like dedication to aesthetic experimentation. For the other scanners, however, ConSec’s drug ‘ephemerol’ seems the only release from psychological dissonance – but is it?
Cronenberg completists will find much to pour over with this new Blu-ray release, Second Sight Films complementing an impeccably restored main feature with several compelling interviews with key talent – including the starring Lack, cinematographer Mark Irwin and makeup effects artist/body horror specialist Stephen Dupuis. Also rereleased on DVD and Blu-ray this week are the two Scanners sequels – 1991’s Scanners II: The New Order and Scanners III: The Takeover – which, whilst both vastly inferior to their forebear, do at least provide a distracting extension to Cronenberg’s original brave new world.