Some of you youngsters out there might see the word “Scanners” and think this movie takes place at a Papyrus store or a Target Greatland and involves the antics of cashiers as they deal with crazy customers while using their price scanners in wacky ways. Well, you’d be wrong. Scanners does not have any montages revolving around employees browsing shelves or checking inventories set to a Smashmouth tune or some other lame band that nobody gives two dicks about.
No, Scanners is a 1981 sci-fi horror film written and directed by David Cronenberg; one of Canada’s finest exports (right behind other notable Canadian exports like Arthur Sicard, the inventor of the snowblower, Conrad Bain, who played “Mr. Drummond” on the television show Diff’rent Strokes and, of course, Molson Beer. And maybe ice hockey. Yeah, ice hockey). Also worth noting is the fact that this unmemorable film (just to clarify, “unmemorable” in my mind, does not exactly equate to something being “bad,” because this film is actually quite good), spawned a series of horrible sequels and spin-offs, none of which involved the participation of Mr. Cronenberg.
Since I can hardly recall anything about the movie other than one scene; I can’t provide a detailed plot synopsis, but I’ll do my best to recap what I do vaguely remember. So, in Scanners, there are a bunch of guys who have special “mind powers” (kind of like the X-Men, but without the tight, homoerotic suits) and they’re chasing a bunch of other guys with special “mind powers.” I think. Honestly, it’s all kind of hazy. When I was growing up, I overindulged in using asthma inhalers and ever since then, my memory has been slightly impaired. Fuck, sometimes I can’t even remember what I just wrote. Fuck, sometimes I can’t even remember what I just wrote.
Anyway, the only other thing going for the movie is that it stars perennial “bad guy” Michael Ironside as the, uh…bad guy. I love Michael Ironside. Anybody who can play an amputee in two movies (that would be in Starship Troopers and briefly during the end-fight in Total Recall) is “a-okay” in my book. I also appreciate the fact that his last name conjures up images of the late-60’s/mid-70’s TV show Ironside. This show featured Raymond Burr as the titular character; a wheelchair-bound police detective paralyzed from the waist down who solved crimes by utilizing his wily brain. This was fine if, say, Ironside was going after somebody who suffered from narcolepsy or if he was hot on the trail of a lethargic paraplegic; but pretty much everybody else could, you know, run away from the detective (actually, perpetrators could probably casually stroll away from Ironside and still be miles ahead of him). He was like Sherlock Holmes, if Sherlock Holmes was old, portly and unable to walk. Yep, that Ironside was a memorable show.
And while I’m on the subject of wheelchairs, have any of you seen the documentary Murderball? It’s about a bunch of quadriplegics who play wheelchair rugby. Now, these guys are scary. Much scarier than an ancient, bloated, paralyzed detective. If they ever remake Ironside, somebody needs to hire one of these wheelchair rugby players. Not only would the rugby guy be able to effectively chase down criminals in his modified wheelchair, but he could also hurl volleyballs at them. Man, I’m full of exciting ideas today! Gabe, you’re a genius!
What the hell was I talking about? Oh yeah, Scanners…
Like I said before, Michael Ironside plays the bad guy and, in the only memorable scene in Scanners, uses his special “mind powers” to seriously fuck up a guy who looks like my Mom’s accountant and Dr. Phil all rolled into one. And how does he seriously fuck up this guy? Well, he makes his head explode…using only his thoughts! Disturbingly, Mr. Ironside’s character goes into some weird trance where he, I assume, is sending very bad thoughts towards the guy who looks like my Mom’s accountant and Dr. Phil all rolled into one. And, in order to simulate these bad thoughts, Mr. Ironside writhes and twitches in his seat, looking as though he is simultaneously getting a blowjob AND taking a dump. It’s quite the bravura performance.
So, why is this scene so memorable? Well, for one thing, it shows a guy’s head exploding! What more do you want? On average I witness, what…like three heads exploding a year? That’s not too many.
On top of this, I have a special relationship with this scene. A relationship that began when I was about six years old. You see, when I was a kid, my Mom would often take me to the movies. And for reasons I’ll never know, just about every movie she took me to during the theatrical run of Scanners had the Scanners preview in front of it. Every. Fucking. Movie. And you know what the preview of Scanners consisted of? That’s right…a guy’s head exploding! This goddamn preview showed up so regularly that I pleaded with my Mom to not drag me to the movies anymore. Finally I relented when some cheesy kids film made its way to my local theater and my Mom reassured me that there was no way in hell the preview for Scanners would be attached to it.
You can see where this is going, right?
Sure enough, as I was getting all comfortable in my seat, settling in and gnawing on popcorn, the Scanners preview came on. I quit chewing my food. My Mom gasped in horror. As if in slow motion, the bucket of popcorn slipped from my hand and struck the ground, sending kernel guts across the sticky floor. Then my Mom dove for me like a secret service agent taking a bullet for the president. She shielded my eyes from the horror that pulsated from the screen. But I could still hear the preview. I could still hear the preview!
And the images had been seared into my mind’s eye; where they replayed in the darkness.
Thanks for scarring me for life, Mr. Cronenberg!
Follow me or I’ll make your fucking head explode!