WILDER, WILDER! FASTER, FASTER! PSYCHO SLUTS MEET PARTY CRASHERS!
Greetings one and all on this fine late-August Saturday morning. This is the kind of day where you throw open the shutters (do people really do that?), lean out the window, take in a deep breath of fresh country air, then go back to bed until payday.
Unfortunately that reality won't wash, so here I am sipping cheap ass coffee and sharing my bottomless well of movie insight with you wonderful folks!
Hard as it is to get excited about being alive in general, I am actually quite excited about tonight's flick - 1981's "Scanners!" Check The Skinny and I hope you get to enjoy this campy classic yourselves.
Scanners (1981): Directed by David Cronenberg. Starring Stephen Lack, Michael Ironsides and Patrick MgGoohan.
The Skinny: One of Cronenberg's earliest entries into his Body Horror series, "Scanners" stars Stephen Lack as a homeless man imbued with powerful psychic energies. As a shady corporation seeks to gather the so-called "Scanners" for their ranks, a renegade scanner is killing off agents and people one by one.
What's Good: Well, any 80s era film with Michael Ironside in it is quickly shifted to the top of the retro pile. The man is a badass, whether it's as Ham in "V: The Final Battle" or Jester in "Top Gun" or as assassin Richter in "Total Recall." But more on the Man Himself later. "Scanners" is definitely one of those films that walks a very thin line between crap and gold, with a decent lean in the former's direction. While Cronenberg went on to many more fantastic movies ("Eastern Promises," anyone?), "Scanners" was most definitely him working out what works and what doesn't onscreen. And there are many parts in he movie that DO work - Cronenberg knows how to build suspense and elevate pulp into drama. Shit, I better move on to ...
What's Bad: When the film doesn't work, it sucks out loud. Bad lighting, bad acting, bad dialogue ... but don't get me wrong, it's a decent idea and a movie you should see once, if only for one of its opening sequences. The problem is, Cronenberg doesn't seem to know what the movie wants to be. Is it sci-fi, horror, a mystery or some bastardized version of all three? Well, that's exactly what it is, and for that reason it appears at times that Conenberg's finger is not exactly on the pulse of this movie's plot. Just let yourself succumb to it once and you'll find yourself laughing at inappropriate times and staring slack-jawed at other times. And if you don't pay attention to the ending (and the many, many bad sequels - none of which Cronenberg had anything to do with), then you might actually enjoy this little slice of exploitive 80s celluloid.
Why We Like It: I believe I stated that in the open salvo - Michael "Bad Assery Abounds" Ironside. I love his big bald head, his tight jawed way of speaking, and his crazy eyes and expressions that somehow summon early Jack Nicholson to mind. In fact, as a kid I used to get him and Jack all confused. Now I know better - one is a fantastic actor who cannot be imitated or duplicated. The other is Jack. Also, there are some great special effects, including the previously mentioned one that I will discuss in greater detail with ...
Memorable Stuff: A DUDE'S HEAD GETS BLOWN THE FUCK OFF HIS GODDAMN HEAD! This scene has been discussed/parodied in every aspect of American pop culture, from SNL to "South Park" to "Wayne's World," and with good reason. It's shocking, sudden and graphic - I ain't even sure the MPAA would allow a scene like this in a modern movie. The effect was achieved by filling a latex head with cow livers and then blowing it to bits from behind with a shotgun and it is chillingly realistic. I mean, of you slow it down you can see bits of brain and eyeballs and flaps of skin flying everywhere - a bit like the R. Budd Dwyer suicide but with fewer panicking newsmen.