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(Directed by David Cronenberg)

Whilst “Carrie” might be seen as the poster-girl for telekinetic horror films, and modern superhero movies have psychically-enhanced characters in flocks, this was the film that really put the gory potential of the subject onto the silver screen, whilst confirming Cronenberg as a genre auteur. “The Fury” might have already exploded a human body with will-power, and films like “The Power” (1968) and “The Medusa Touch” (1978) tread surprisingly similar paths, but Cronenberg brought this tale of emerging telekinesis to life with the OG head-explosion and a palpable sense of power. The story was also written by the Canadian filmmaker, and he would later go on record to say that it was the “most frustrating” film he’d made, although it was his most critically/financially successful project until “The Fly”. Originally to have been set in the future and called “Telepathy 2000” (allegedly), instead it takes another look at Cronenberg’s stance on body-horror and how science can mess with the balance of nature. It has a very strong cast including; Jennifer O'Neill, Michael Ironside, Patrick McGoohan, and Stephen Lack. The plot basically sees “good” mutant Cameron Vale (Lack), entrusted with a mission by penitent scientist Paul Ruth (McGoohan), to stop “evil” mutant Darryl Revok (Ironside) from wreaking havoc with his like-minded mentalists.

So far, so Marvel. But this being Cronenberg, it’s a whole lot more visceral than “X-Men”. The mentally-gifted characters are called “Scanners” and can exploit fragilities in the human body as well as electronics. (NB: One sequence actually sees Vale “hack” a computer system with his thoughts). But of course every horror fan remembers the stunning head explosion from the opening scene, which was created by filling a latex head with raw meat and stage blood, before being (literally) shot from behind with a 12-gauge shotgun. There are other great effects and sequences; all accompanied by a sinister “pounding” noise as the Scanners use their powers. The film ends with a benchmark moment in horror with Vale and Revok engaged in a deadly duel of minds, with eyes-bursting, flesh-burning, and blood spurting from wounds. It’s a sequence that loses none of its power even today; with both Lack and Ironside contorting wildly, whilst covered in prosthetic effects from make-up artist Dick Smith (The Exorcist). It’s all gloriously backed up by the dramatic score from Howard Shore (a regular Cronenberg collaborator). There’s also some biting social commentary as the cause of powers is found to be an experimental birthing drug called Ephemerol (shades of Thalidomide), which leads to a plot twist and a character being “scanned” by a unborn child! Definitely one of Cronenberg’s best, even if Lack is somewhat wooden in the lead, Ironside more than makes up for it in his first role as the deliciously evil Revok. There were a number of sequels that went straight to video in the 90s (“Scanners II: The New Order”, “Scanners III: The Takeover”, “Scanner Cop”, and “Scanner Cop II”). These are actually kind of fun, but link only tenuously to the original and are nowhere near the quality. Rumours of remakes, reboots, and TV series have periodically surfaced every couple of years post-2000, but nothing has yet materialised