Each year I take a dive into the mind of David Cronenberg. Always intriguing, always superbly made, always deeply disturbing. While not as grotesque as The Fly or as disturbing as The Brood, Scanners is great horror.

The film follows a group of telepathic individuals known as scanners who live on the outskirts of society. They are constantly overwhelmed by the thoughts of those around them. They are outcast as crazy and dysfunctional.

A shady corporation ConSec is conducting research on scanners lead by Dr. Paul Ruth. During a scanner demonstration the malicious Darryl Revok, played with evil gusto by Michael Ironside, uses his abilities to murder several people in famously gruesome fashion.

After this attack, Dr. Paul Ruth employs a newly found scanner named Cameron Vale, played by Stephen Lack with great eye acting and stilted line delivery, to infiltrate Revok’s group and bring him to justice.

The rest of the film is a battle of psychic power and will. It feels more like a political thriller as agents of Revok pursue Vale around the city. The chase is given an extra sense of danger by the added supernatural element.

My favorite part of this movie is how good the filmmaking is. Cronenberg is such a great filmmaker and his craft is on display from the first shot. I love watching a movie and within five minutes knowing I’m in good hands as the filmmakers ability and approach become clear.

Cronenberg is famous for his body horror wherein the human body is distorted on contorted to horrific effect. Scanners was released in 1981, and kicked off Cronenberg’s international fame. The horror here is limited. There are two big gruesome scenes of body horror that will stay will never forever. The subtle filmmaking and the incredible makeup work combines beautifully to create moments that are deeply disturbing but still entertaining.

This movie was my cup of tea. I really enjoyed it. I like the unique take on the horror genre. I like the filmmaking and the fast pace. The movie is an A- for me

Spoilers territory!

Okay get ready for the nasty bits.

The most famous scene in this movie involves two scanners in a battle of wills. Michael ironside proves stronger and blows up the head of his opponent with through sheer power of his brain.

The effect is incredible. The prosthetic head looks realistic enough and is shown only briefly before the explosion. The explosion itself is messy and chaotic. The front half of the head flies forward and the back seems to disappear. It’s not a refined evenly executed explosion. It’s gnarly in just the right way.

The climax of the film involves Vale and Revok in a similar battle of wills. The veins in their arms bulge and spray blood due to the mental power being exerted. It’s an awesome effect. The way their arms bulge and spring jetting leaks of blood. The effect is pretty obvious, but it’s seamlessly executed.

Vale begins losing the fight and his skin begins peeling away from his face. He clutches his face in agony and defiance only to tear chunks of his face away. It’s one of the most convincing bits of nastiness I’ve seen. There’s no obvious swap from actor to prop head. There are no clear seams indicating where the prosthetics begin and his face ends. And the deep gouges look so deep that they couldn’t possibly be faked. I was watching in tension over the story and on wonder over the incredible effects work on display.

I’d much rather watch something actually happening on screen rather than a billion dollar cgi effect. The tactile thrill and visceral sensation cannot be matched.

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