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In the not too distant future — or, at least, the not too distant future of 1981 — Scanners (telekinetics that can manipulate minds and kill at will), though still in subterranean development, are becoming a national threat and one of them, the powerful Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside), wants to use their power to rule the world. But Dr. Paul Ruth (The Prisoner's Patrick McGoohan) has a hidden weapon, the heretofore unknown scanner Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack), who might be as skilled as Revok. As the Scanners start to wage war, Vale becomes the key for both Dr. Ruth and Revok to the fate of the world. Though Scanners features the carnage that people go to horror films for (exploding heads, in this case), the ideas behind the film elevate it past the exploitation genre — it's Hershell Gordon Lewis by way of Lacan. But that's what director David Cronenberg is known for, as his films are usually more about disease and the effects of the evolution of technology than the latest special effects. This is one of the director's more mainstream works (or at least as mainstream as Cronenberg gets), and the picture suffers for it, weighed down by a narrative that causes the middle to drag. Strangely, Scanners has a parallel narrative arc to George Lucas' Star Wars films — make no mistake, there is the body horror and creepiness that is standard to the Cronenberg oeuvre (and the lower budget of most horror fare), but it's also about training the specially gifted Vail to face Revok, who is Vail's doppelganger and of familial relation. Perhaps Joseph Campbell influenced both artists, but Cronenberg turns these Campbellian notions on their ear. With a mastery of the horror film — where mood forces us to take the proceedings seriously — Scanners has enough Cronenbergian touches to placate the faithful. MGM's DVD offers an anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with audio in DD 2.0 mono. Theatrical trailer, keep-case.

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