David Cronenberg’s Scanners (1981) introduced us to powerful beings known as ‘scanners’. Scanners can do all sorts of nifty things with their powers, for example they can move things with their mind, read people’s thoughts, probe your brain and oh yeah, blow your head into smithereens. So of course somebody is going to want them, somebody is going to hunt them down. To me, the original Scanners was an allegory for people who wake up and see the world for what it is, they are intelligent, they are not sheep, they know what’s going down, so of course they are chased down by the powers that be for this. Their minds are too powerful! It’s one of Cronenberg’s finest films. And like most Cronenberg films, it’s filled with psychological themes. To me, Scanners was a story meant to be told in one film, it said what it had to say with the first film and that was that. It’s not the kind of film you want to see a sequel to, the original was good, it shocked, it impacts you, leave it there. But you know how Hollywood works, they like to squeeze ideas till they can’t be squeezed no more and so this is how we come to Scanners II: The New Order and Scanners III: The Takeover (1991).
Scanners II: The New Order plays with the ideas presented in Cronenberg’s film, but goes in another direction; a cheesy direction. In this films scanners start to surface in the world and dirty politicians want to control and use them for their evil purposes. Same as in Cronenberg’s original film, in Scanners II we meet a good scanner and a bad scanner. The good scanner is called David and he’s studying to become a vet. He is just learning to discover his abilities. On the dark side of the spectrum we got Peter Drak, the bad scanner who has turned to the dark side of the force and uses his powers for evil, like controlling video games with the power of his mind and joining a band of corrupt cops and politicians. Can David stop Peter from helping the corrupt politicians from reaching power?
The thing with this second film is that it’s a low budget straight to video sequel to a good movie, so you can automatically expect the quality levels to go down. And yeah, this film technically feels like a low budget version of Cronenbergs film, at times it feels like a tv movie, but the thing about it is that it is actually a fun movie, fast paced and entertaining. Yeah it’s cheesy and yeah it’s got some bad dialog in there, but overall, I think this movie is a hell of a lot better than it has any right to be and I think a lot of that has to do with the director and the fast paced/gory nature of the film. The film grabs you right from it’s opening sequence where Drak, the bad scanner enters an arcade and starts to control a video game with the power of his mind, people freak out, so he goes nuts and starts pushing people with his powers. The scene is great, it establishes that this character’s a nut case! The film keeps going like that all the way through, something exciting or shocking happening all the time; which is good news for us the viewers because even though the film is low budget, it still grabs you and keeps your attention, which is not always the case with low budget b-movies like this one.
Films dealing with telekinesis have always interested me, if you’d like to read more about these films go here. So anyways, of course this one had me glued to the screen. The ample gore also got my attention. Cronenberg’s film has that famous head explosion that everyone loves and this one delivers a similar and equally successful head explosion, but it focuses even more on gory effects than Cronenberg’s film did. Yes my friends, this film comes to us from that wonderful era in filmmaking when make-up effects were king and so we get tons of cool make up effects! Faces get distorted, heads get blown up and all sorts of nasty stuff happens. So the high gore level keeps things interesting. I also enjoyed how they played around with things that the Scanners can do with their powers, like controlling somebody from a distance. All in all, this is an entertaining sequel, and it actually has some cool shots and locations. So it’s not a total waste of a sequel. It’s not a “worthy” sequel to the original, but as a b-movie you could do a heck of a lot worse.
Then we have Scanners III: The Take Over; which to me takes a nose dive into stupidity. I mean, where the first film tried is best to retain a “serious” tone to it, this second one turns into a pretty stupid film. Weird part is that it was made by the same director and producer, but for some reason this film doesn’t work as well as the second, I think it might have something to do with having less money. Okay, so here’s the thing with these Scanner films, they don’t have a continuity to them. They might reference some small detail from one of the other films, but for the most part all these films are stand alone films, unrelated to one another. The only thing that holds them together are the scanners and the drug used to control them, the Ephemorol. Since this one is the third film, they now call the drug EPH-3, on the second film it was called EPH-2. That’s about as far as we go in continuity my friends. But anyhow, speaking of plot, this movie actually has an interesting concept to it. Sure it’s bathed in cheese and bad, bad dialog, but the idea behind the film is actually a cool one.
While on previous films Ephemerol was administered through a syringe, on this third film it is a patch that you wear on your neck and only lasts 24 hours. So anyhow, the main character on the film is this news reporter named Helena Monet. She starts out really kind hearted and nice, she doesn’t even use her scanner abilities for evil; but once she starts taking EPH-3 she turns into this evil lady who suddenly decides to use her scanner powers to control the world! Or something like that. The film isn’t very clear in explaining exactly what she wants to do. So here’s where the cool concept works itself in: since she works on television, she gets this nifty idea that she can use her powers to control people through television! And her channel gets 75 million viewers…so if she does things right she can end up controlling them all! Cool idea right? Kind of reminded me of the plot for Batman Forever (1995), where The Riddler wanted to do the same exact thing. So anyhow, I thought that was a pretty cool concept but it makes no sense whatsoever.
Sexy Bad Scanner
The thing with this movie is that it’s so cheesy that I couldn’t help but laugh throughout the whole damn thing. Me and my friends couldn’t stop watching, or laughing. In my book this one is a notch below the second one because it’s a terrible script that fails to explain things clearly. Like why does Helena want to suddenly control the world? There’s this laser that does something to the scanners, but what the hell is it and how does it work? Who the hell knows, it just does. It’s a pretty stupid (and therefore funny) film. Take for example the main character in the film, a scanner named Alex. He ends up killing a friend of his by mistake during a Christmas party, so in order to deal with this he pulls a Rambo III and goes to Thailand, to a monastery, to train with monks. A scanner training with monks, that’s gotta be good for something. Without a doubt the single worst moment in the whole franchise is this moment in which Helena makes this guy dance and strip in the middle of a restaurant, again, a lame attempt to infuse the film with some comedy. Even funnier are the faces that the actors make when they are using their powers! After a while they crack you up. There are many goofs all over the movie, like actors waiting for the camera to pass by, scenes where you can tell that it’s the double and not the main actor, visible cables, so yeah my friends, this one has goofs galore. Yet another element that makes it hilarious.
Scanners III isn’t as gory as the second one. For some reason they decided to downplay the gore and inject comedy into the film, which didn’t work at all. The filmmakers had this strange idea to add some evil scanners that were supposed to serve as comedy relief? Unfortunately they simply stand out, as if they belonged in some other movie. How funny were these three scanners? Well, one of them dies inside of a revolving door! The death is simply put: cartoony. Another thing that brings this third film down for me is that they obviously had less money to make it because there is less of everything. For example, the final confrontation, which we’ve come to expect as gory and violent, ends with nothing but a wimper. It was not very exciting if you ask me. I would have to say that the best thing the film has going for it is Liliana Komorowska, the beautiful actress who plays Helena, she plays her character really over the top, and she has no problems with nudity! Speaking of nudity, this film has tons of it!
At the end of the day, Scanners III: The Takeover is one of those movies that is so “bad” you won’t be able to stop watching. Ever wanted to see a scanner blowing up a pigeon with the power of their minds? Well it happens here! It’s one of those films where you want to see just how bad they can get. And trust me, this one just keeps going and going and going with its bad movie self. So yeah, don’t expect a good movie, just a funny goofy one that you can make fun of and you’ll be fine. There’s more Scanner movies…there’s Scanner Cop (1994) and Scanner Cop II (1995), both of which I have erased from my memory banks. I’ll re-watch them at some point, unfortunately they don’t seem to be available on DVD, maybe I’ll simply have to watch them on YouTube, which I hate to do. I’ve gone on long enough about these movies. I recommend you watch Cronenberg’s film instead which is the superior of all these films. Just remember, Scanners II, gory and fast paced semi-decent sequel, Scanners III so bad that it’s a laugh riot.
Scanners II: The New Order (1991): 3 out of 5
Scanners III: The Takeover (1991): 2 out of 5