Year: 1981

Production: Filmplan International / Canadian Film Development Corp.

Director: David Cronenberg

Starring: Stephen Lack, Jennifer O'Neal, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane, Michael Ironside

Screenwriter: David Cronenberg

Novelization (1981) by Leon Whiteson

103 minutes; Color

This superior psi-powers movie easily outstrips Carrie (1976) and The Fury (1978). Pregnant women (we learn some way into the film) have been given an experimental drug, ephemerol, ostensibly a tranquilizer but actually designed to produce paranormal offspring - scanners - who can exercise total control over the brains and nervous systems of others. The two oldest telepaths (brothers, it turns out) are corrupted - in different ways - by their power, though one (Lack) fights for human society, the other (Ironside) for superhumans. The film is choreographed in the most exemplary manner, from the celebrated exploding-head sequence at the beginning to the final telepathic duel between the brothers and its enigmatic outcome. It is also advanced in sf terms, working sophisticated variations on the mutant theme, streets ahead of the usual crudities of psi-power movies. Cronenberg's restless marriage of highbrow metaphor and lowbrow exploitation seldom works better than here, despite sometimes indifferent performances, especially Lack's. The sequels are Scanners II: The New Order (1991) and Scanners III: The Takeover (1992).

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

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