Scanners Blu-ray Review (Region B Steelbook)

Scanners Blu-ray Review (Region B Steelbook)Throughout his cinematic career, David Cronenberg has firmly established himself as someone that makes smart, original films as well as films that test the boundaries of gore and practical effect work. The highlights of his vast film work come about when he finds ways to combine these elements together. A shining example of this fusion is 1981’s Scanners. With this film, Cronenberg managed to craft a borderline thriller that utilizes science fiction as well as the “body horror” that many of his early works are associated with.

Immediately, Cronenberg shows no interest in holding the audiences hand while dropping story beats at a slow pace. He assumes his audience is smart enough to follow his tale and crafts accordingly. The film immediately opens up to find a trench coated young male, Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack), stuck in a food court surrounded by people and loud noises. Cameron is distraught and anxious, and as his anxiety grows, an older female nearby falls to the ground experiencing a seizure-like attack that, despite having no contact whatsoever, Cameron seems to be causing. It’s not long before he realizes that there are people after him and, despite his best efforts, he is quite easily apprehended. This ends up being a good thing as his capture leads to his discovery that he is a scanner.

Vale is told that a scanner is someone with great psychic powers. These powers can even be powerful enough to cause others harm, and that’s where Cameron comes in. One of the world’s most powerful scanners, Darren Revok (the always excellent Michael Ironside), has gone rogue and is leading up an underground collective of scanners ready to take down anyone in their way. Since Revok is apparently unaware of Cameron’s existence, the powers that be are hoping they can get the jump on Revok and put a stop to this growing revolution before it’s too late.

Despite its early 80’s leaning, Scanners is still quite the impressive film, thanks mostly in part to the creative mind of Cronenberg. Many of Cronenberg’s films have a running theme of a lack of control over one’s body, specifically changes that may be occurring to it (most notably and effectively in Videodrome and The Fly). With Scanners, Croenenberg was able to explore this idea of one’s own body turning against itself simply based on the thoughts of another. This is a work that’s ripe with metaphors and adds even more layers to an already impressive tale.

Along with his intellectual side, Cronenberg has a love for realistic, stomach-turning gore, which is where the “horror” aspect of his films comes in to play. Though there are quite a few scenes with some top notch practical work, especially in the film’s climax, there is a scene early on of Revok causing a fellow scanner’s head to completely explode that has become one of cult cinemas most iconic moments. I must say, for any fan of realistic effect work, it is an absolute joy to see this scene in high definition. Having employed some of the best in the business at the time, it is quite nice to see this work get to live on for more generations to come.

While the direction of the film is quite strong and sure, the acting is a bit of a mixed bag. Stephen Lack, the film’s lead, had no sort of acting training before being in the film. While some critics have called out his performance as being incredibly subpar, I quite like him in the film. I feel that his natural naivety adds a very human and vulnerable quality to his character. He manages to hold his own in the scenes he shares with Michael Ironside who is a character actor tour de force. The only real questionable choices are when characters are “scanning”. If the viewer allows themselves to be immersed in the story, then it can be quite intense and powerful. If the immersion is non-existent, those scenes could easily come off as quite hokey.

Scanners Blu-ray Review (Region B Steelbook)

High-Def Presentation

Second Sight Films has a great track record so far with their HD packages of beloved cult films (Return of the Living Dead, Basketcase Trilogy) and this release of Scanners continues to prove the company’s commitment to providing strong releases. Featuring a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC Encode, Scanners looks the best I have ever seen it. It’s definitely the product of an early 80’s color palette, with much more subdued shades for the most part. However colors can and do pop, especially reds. There’s a great amount of detail, from the fabric of outfits to bits of exploding head shooting everywhere. A fair amount of grain is also intact, helping the film retain its natural presentation.

The sound mix, while good, isn’t quite as impressive. This could honestly be a case of the available materials themselves being lacking. The film is given a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, but it rarely feels like it takes full advantage. Dialogue is always clear and centered, but is a tad low at times. Rarely is there ever any sound moving into the surrounds, save for a bit of score here and there. All in all, the track is serviceable and, most likely, accurate to its theatrical origins.

Beyond the Feature

Second Sight Films have brought Scanners to the high-def arena with an absolute wealth of great special features. First and foremost, the disc is housed in a beautiful steelbook featuring the original key art from the film on the front. On the disc are five different interviews with various cast and crew (sadly, Cronenberg is not among them), each one touching on different aspects of the film. Each piece is incredibly informative on the ins and outs of the filmmaking process. They really round out the package quite nicely and add even more value to the package Second Sight has provided this cult classic. The interviews with Stephen Lack and Pierre David are the standouts, for sure.

The following is a complete list of included special features on the disc.

  • My Art Keeps Me Sane – Interview with star Stephen Lack
  • The Eye of the Scanners – Interview with cinematographer Mark Irwin
  • The Chaos of Scanners – Interview with executive producer Pierre David
  • Exploding Brains & Popping Veins – Interview with makeup effects artist Stephen Dupuis
  • Bad Guy Dane – Interview with actor Lawrence Dane

Scanners, despite being an early entry in Cronenberg’s career, is quite the impressive film. It manages to tell an intellectual tale, ask deep, metaphorical questions and be downright disgusting all at once. It would also pave the way for some of Cronenberg’s genuine cinematic classics. Second Sight has done fans of this film an absolute solid by bringing it out with a beautiful High Definition transfer and a wealth of informative supplements that add even more to the brilliance of the film and its creator. A must have release for any fan of cult cinema.

Scanners is offered in Europe (region B) as a limited edition steelbook with an April 8, 2013 release date. It is only playable in a region-free or region B Blu-ray player.

Scanners Blu-ray Review (Region B Steelbook)

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