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Scanners (1981) Review

“Scanners” is a 1981 Canadian science fiction horror film directed by David Cronenberg and starring Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, and Michael Ironside. The film follows a group of people who are gifted with telepathic and telekinetic powers and are being used as weapons by a corporation. The film was a box office success and has since gained a cult following.

The movie starts off with a bang, literally. We are introduced to a scanner, someone with telepathic and telekinetic abilities, who uses his powers to exploded the head of a security guard. We are then introduced to ConSec, a corporation that is using scanners as weapons. We meet Cameron Vale, a scanner who is being used by ConSec to track down and stop other scanners. Vale is reluctant to use his powers but is forced to when he meets a woman named Darryl Revok, a scanner who is using his powers to kill people. Vale and Revok have a showdown which ends with Vale victorious but at the cost of his own life.

A cult classic movie with a brilliant cast. That pretty much sums up Scanners; in the ‘mind control’ sub genre of horror, Scanners has to be one of the best, if not the best movie going.

The acting quality is a bit ‘here and there’ to be honest with some fine performances by some. Michael Ironside who plays the main villain in the movie Darryl Revok, is really quite menacing and creepy. He always does these kind of characters well and Revok is no different. Stephen Lack who plays the main character Cameron Vale is OK, nothing brilliant but OK. Without a doubt though the best performance comes from Patrick McGoohan. His portrayal of Dr Ruth is emotionally dense and he brings forward the mystery of that character superbly. By and large the acting quality is fine.

By modern standards i wouldn’t say Scanners is overly gory, although i imagine in the early 80’s it must have seemed immensely OTT in the gore dept. The infamous head explosion scene is still quite shocking, even if it does look somewhat fake nowadays. Nor is Scanners that scary to be frank, although through David Cronenberg’s stellar direction there is something genuinely unnerving about the whole experience.

The movie’s pacing is fine, it’s never boring, nor is it too fast. Most of the characters are fleshed out well and there is some action (though not that much).

So, is Scanners worth a watch? Absolutely. Although beware this movie is starting to show it’s age somewhat and parts of it do look dated. Not that it’s a problem for this reviewer, although for some younger folks it might. Still Scanners is a seminal piece of horror that can’t go unwatched by any self respecting horror fan regardless of age. Just watch it, you won’t be that disappointed.

The movie is a classic example of Cronenberg’s body horror, with its graphic scenes of exploding heads and people being ripped apart by telekinetic powers. It’s also a tense and suspenseful thriller, with great performances by O’Neill and Ironside. The movie is dated now, but it’s still a classic of the genre and well worth watching.


A young man named Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) is recruited by a government agency known as “The top secret government agency” to use his powerful telepathic abilities to help them fight crime. However, when he is betrayed by the agency, he goes on a rampage using his powers to kill anyone who gets in his way.

Meanwhile, the head of the agency, Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan), is trying to track down Cameron in order to stop him before he does any more damage. But Cameron is one step ahead of them, and as the body count rises, Ruth must find a way to stop him before it’s too late.

Scanners is a science fiction thriller from director David Cronenberg that explores the dangerous potential of mind-control. With a cast that includes some of Cronenberg’s regular collaborators, such as Michael Ironside and Jennifer O’Neill, the film is a visually arresting and disturbing look at what could happen if someone had the ability to control others with their thoughts.

Movie Details

Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: David Cronenberg
Actors: Jennifer O’Neill, Lawrence Dane, Mavor Moore, Robert Silverman
Release Year: 1981