My reasoning for discussing David Cronenberg's Scanners for this year's “Class of 1981” is two-fold: 1. I don't remember how old I was exactly, but I distinctly remember the VHS cover artwork grabbing my attention during a brief trip to Blockbuster with my mom - of course, she didn't rent it for me - and 2. After all these years, I never got the chance to watch it!

In a weird way, I'm really glad that my mom didn't let me watch Scanners. That distorted face of a man screaming with his eyes bulging out left a sense of mystery and dread in my mind for years. I miss when movie posters piqued your interest and the imagery alone made you want to watch the movie. I suppose life, other films, TV shows, and projects of my own are what kept me from ever watching Scanners until now, but I've watched the film three times in preparation for this retrospective, and I'm happy to report that I have a new David Cronenberg film to love. Move over Cosmopolis!

Written and directed by David Cronenberg, Scanners is based on two of his scripts, The Sensitives and Telepathy 2000. Prior to doing research for this retrospective, I wondered why Cronenberg didn't name this film Telepathy or The Telepathics. Now I know that he did consider at least one of those titles in the early stages of the screenplay, but Scanners evokes a moodier tone and leaves more to the imagination. 

Speaking of wild imaginations, Cronenberg’s love of gross-out moments are on full display here, with a scene so iconic that you certainly know about the exploding head even if you haven’t seen the film. As with a lot of practical effects, it takes a team and a lot of hard work to get the desired outcome, but Gary Zeller and his team did an incredible job. A dummy with a skull made of plaster was shot from behind with a shotgun to get that upward exploding effect. That disturbing scene showcases the power of scanners and how terrifying it would be to live in a world with them and really sets the tone for what you as an audience member are in for over the next hour and 20 minutes.

What makes me love this movie so much beyond its captivating premise and artwork, is just how unique and confident Cronenberg’s style is. From his now-trademarked body horror, to the tortured characters, editing style, the way he shoots scenes, pacing, and tension, he knows how to make an audience feel uncertain and unsettled. I certainly felt that way throughout most of this film. There's a low humming that plays during quiet moments, for example, when Cameron (Stephen Lack) is inside of ConSec's headquarters, and it made me feel tense like someone was about to jump out at any moment. 

Scanners is everything my child mind imagined when just looking at the VHS cover and more. It's no wonder that the artwork is of a man screaming, and I was never quite sure if the “scanner” was screaming in pain and/or anger. Scanners is a story about a group of people who can do terrifying things and some are also terrified by what they can do. Many comic books make telekinesis and telepathy seem cool, but Cronenberg does a great job of showing how torturous that power actually could be. The special effects are extremely well-done, and the story is compelling, and if you have never seen this movie, I absolutely recommend that you give it a try. In my opinion, it is David Cronenberg's best!


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  • Tamika Jones
    About the Author - Tamika Jones

    Tamika hails from North Beach, Maryland, a tiny town inches from the Chesapeake Bay.She knew she wanted to be an actor after reciting a soliloquy by Sojourner Truth in front of her entire fifth grade class. Since then, she's appeared in over 20 film and television projects. In addition to acting, Tamika is the Indie Spotlight manager for Daily Dead, where she brings readers news on independent horror projects every weekend.

    The first horror film Tamika watched was Child's Play. Being eight years old at the time, she remembers being so scared when Chucky came to life that she projectile vomited. It's tough for her to choose only one movie as her favorite horror film, so she picked two: Nosferatu and The Stepford Wives (1975).