Saturday, September 7, 2013

Scanners II and III (Scream Factory Combo Review) - The Mind That's Over Your Matter

Confession time: I have never been a huge fan of David Cronenberg’s Scanners. That’s not to say that the iconic head explosion that revolutionized splatter doesn’t have a place on my list of greatest effects in horror cinema. I enjoy Michael Ironside’s performance, but the whole thing is really slow, and despite my love for Cronenberg’s other work including The Brood, Videodrome, Shivers, Rabid…well pretty much everything else, I can’t say that I’m a repeat watcher for the original Scanners. That in turn has meant that I hadn’t explored Scanners II: The New Order which has meant that I didn’t watch Scanners III: The Takeover or subsequent Scanner Cop movies. For all the love afforded the original film I don’t necessarily see a contingent that outright adores the franchise as a whole though I imagine there’s a cult of folks wearing strange contact lenses trying to make each other’s head explode with their mind power. So that’s me on Scanners. Sorry. I confess, and I realize that it is not a popular opinion. I’ve taken heat on it before, and I’m sure that my next remarks about at least one of the sequels will further make your head spin (or explode to keep in theme). Let’s get into Scanners II and III; movies that I enjoyed and feel somewhat bad that I waited to watch.

Synopsis from Scream Factory

Scanners II: The New Order

Trailer Not From the Scream Factory Release

A breed of humans with dangerously powerful telepathic abilities – the scanners – are being recruited by a corrupt police commander, John Forrester, in his crusade to take over the city. Forrester first enlists the help of an evil scientist, Dr. Morse, who wants to conduct mind-control experiments on the scanners with a new drug. When the side effects render the scanners incapable, Forrester then finds David Kellum (David Hewlett, Cube, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes), a rational scanner who, unaware of his own powers, agrees to help him. Will Kellum discover Forrester’s real motive and prevent the “New Order” from being established?

Scanners III: The Takeover

Trailer Not From the Scream Factory Release

A young scanner (Liliana Komorowska, Screamers) with extraordinary telepathic powers transforms into a lethal killing machine after taking one of her father’s experimental drugs. After taking over his pharmaceutical company, the deranged scanner runs amok on a killing spree and takes over a television company in her quest for world domination. As her thirst for more power grows stronger, only one man – her scanner brother – might have the power to stop her.

Let’s get something out of the way from the outset as respect the Scream Factory double feature release. Both releases are transfers worthy of the Scream Factory name. These movies, shot in the early 90’s, never did make it to DVD in the US. Available in US now, you have the chance to watch them in a premium Blu-ray or DVD release with exquisite cover art. The bad side…no special features. No options. They’re bare bones. I’m not entirely sure it’s cost effective to bang out making of features for a release that seemingly has a small fan base. This is the other side of Scream Factory. They release movies that fans love, so that fans can actually enjoy proper releases. Not necessarily fully loaded with extras, but you won’t have to fish around at swap meets or worse, YouTube to see them. They get the movie in your hands and then let you, the horror fiend, experience some early 90’s underrated gold.

The movies themselves each has merit. Scanners II isn’t entirely related to the series save that it involves Scanners, people who can use their mind to manipulate the world around them, read minds and make a persons head explode. It moves quicker than the original movie, and the overall effects work may not be quite up to the standard set by the original film in terms of realism. This actually works in its favor taking an over the top, somewhat gonzo approach to the effects of the Scanners telekinetic powers. Directed by Christian Duguay, new filmmaker in 1991, the film evokes a feeling that one might better associate with the Re-animator sequels and the off the wall effects there of. While the quality isn’t quite up to the Yuzna/Gordon seal of approval, it’s absolutely entertaining. The slow paced original film gives way to an up beat action movie rather than a suspense filled psycho drama with hints of Stephen King’s the Dead Zone and Firestarter. Of course the focus is still on body horror of which Cronenberg is the master, so while I enjoyed this release due to narrative and pacing, the scare level is lower than the original film. Scanners II simply doesn’t have Cronenberg behind the lens, but it has ideas that he cemented in the audiences’ mind. I may not be a huge fan of the original Scanners, but I respect it. The concept is truly genius and the sequel carries that concept into a new element. The New Order helps to cement the Scanners world as a concrete possibility. What if the folks who can control the minds of the average ordinary humans were being controlled by an average ordinary human? This is heavy.

Scanners III, also directed by Christian Duguay, takes on a completely different tone. While the Scanners of both previous films seem edgy and intelligent, through the display of characteristics of junkies looking for their fix and ruthless when their path is impeded, the new evolution of Scanner related pharmacology turns Scanners into cold blooded, psychopaths. The movie isn’t as good as Scanners II. The acting doesn’t live up to either predecessor, but the storyline flows organically and absolutely makes sense to the way a paranormal evolution might transact. Scanners III isn’t simply a cash grab, direct to video release. It is the natural progression of an idea started in the original picture. There’s no
real connection to the original picture or sequel, but the overall concept of the Scanner doesn’t warrant we follow beloved protagonists on a lifeline journey of the Scanner. The effects fall flat at times and don’t live up to the gonzo sequel or incredible potent original. It seems to me that you might consider Scanners III the extra feature on the release of Scanners II; Scanners II being an exceptional work of horror fiction, the sequel, not so much.

The reason you’ll pick this release up is to continue a story that you love. If you haven’t seen either film, this is the opportunity to do so. I don’t think you’ll find either release bad, but you’ll probably find more merit in The New Order than in The Takeover.

You can grab the Scanners II and III double feature combo pack at DiabolikDVD. You can also visit the Scream Factory website to see the full line of releases including this one.



1 comment:

  1. The takeover dance scene is one of the best things caught on film ever.