The famous scene from this movie, the exploding head, was supposed to be the opening frames of the movie, but test audiences were so stunned by the scene that they never really recovered to watch the rest of the movie. Even moved back further in the movie, it still is, even today, visually impacting. When a low level scanner, someone with telepathic ability, is asking the audience for volunteers to be probed by his mind, I know something sinister is about to happen when Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside) volunteers. We learn very quickly that Revok is a rogue scanner working against the private security firm ConSec who is trying to develop a scanner program for military applications. Revok has successfully turned most of the known scanners to his cause, and the ones that don’t accept his cause are eliminated.
The join us or die concept.
Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan) is the languidly cool, intelligent guru of the scanners program. He recruits Cameron Vale (Steven Lack), an under the radar scanner who is just discovering his skills, to take on Revok and his group of “rogue” scanners. The acting by Lack is distractedly wooden. This may have been intentional to give the audience the feeling that he is something less/more than human. Vale infiltrates the scanner organization and discovers that ConSec and the rogue scanners are tied together through a program called RIPE that will distribute a drug that will turn babies in the womb into scanners. He also convinces Kim Obrist (Jennifer O’Neill), a scanner, to help him.
There are gunfights, car crashes, and telepathic inspired explosions. When people in the movie are hit with gunfire, the blood spews as if a ketchup bottle exploded out of their clothes. It was certainly over the top and elicited more than one laugh from me. The plot all comes to a final <i>The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly</i> scene with Vale taking on Revok man to man in a telepathic battle which both “the good” guy and “the bad” guy end up looking very UGLY. Michael Ironsides, or the poor director’s Jack Nicholson, was actually the right combination of menacing craziness.
This movie was shot cheaply, quickly, and could have certainly been a lot better movie if David Cronenberg had more time and money, but despite those factors the movie was interesting and certainly watchable. It actually did well at the box office making a nice profit for the investors. There are just enough gruesome scenes to remind you this is a Cronenberg movie. Not one of Cronenberg’s best, but certainly a movie worth seeing if you are a Cronenberg fan. If for nothing else, you’ve got to see this guy’s ⇩ head explode.