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Monday, October 28, 2013

31 Days of Scream-O-Ween! - Scanners 2 & 3 Double Feature

By David Massey

Telekinesis is the subject of today’s double-feature Blu-ray release from Scream Factory. ‘Scanners 2: The New Order’ & ‘Scanners 3: The Takeover’ are more stand-alone interpretations of the themes and scenarios introduced by Cronenberg’s 1981 classic than actual sequels. By all rights, it’s no surprise that few have seen these; they are oozing with an early-1990’s, straight-to-video feel but, as a couple, there is some genuine weight here and both films definitely have their merits.

Scanner 2 & 3

The Films:
First of all, what is a ‘Scanner’? Well, we learn in the original film that in the 1950’s a medication called ephemerol was tested on a large number of women to ease the discomfort of pregnancy. Much to the surprise of all involved, the drug caused a mutation in the infants; they were born with powers including (but not limited to) telekinesis, extrasensory perception, and the ability to read minds. Each film builds on these powers, reaching a fever-pitch of suspended disbelief by the third.

In ‘Scanners 2: The New Order’ we are introduced to David Kellum, a mild-mannered veterinary student who’s scanning abilities are just surfacing – apparently the result of his moving away from the quiet countryside and to a volatile (and fantastically Canadian) city. He is approached by a research lab that is trying to find fresh Scanners who are not psychopaths; one of the side effects of the mutation is that it often drives those affected completely insane. David discovers that the corporation has a dubious ulterior motive and he uses his newly tuned scanning abilities to fight back.

'Scanners 3: The Takeover’ is actually a bit of a mini-epic. It doesn’t have half the budget of the previous film and there are some off-the-wall, kooky performances from almost all of the characters but this is definitely the better – and by better, I mean camp fun - of the 2 films. The film begins with an introduction to Alex Monet, a brash Scanner that has reduced his abilities to a literal party trick. When he absent-mindedly kills his best friend at one such party, he decides, in an effort of contrition, to find a way to better hone his powers. This leads him to the Buddhist monasteries of Tibet. Meanwhile, his sister, Helena Monet, (who is the heir to the pharmaceutical company that is working on a ‘cure’ for the previously-described side effects of the scanning mutation) is experimenting with said drug, turning her into a power-hungry megalomaniac. Much as the original ‘Scanners’ introduced the ability to control computers, Helena attempts to control people by passing a ‘scanner signal’ through pre-recorded video. When Alex returns, it is a cat and mouse game pitting brother against sister.

There is no doubt in my mind that the spark that inspired these follow-ups was the singularly iconic exploding head from the original and these sequels do not let down. There is a surplus of gooey gore and a sense that each death is an attempt to outdo the last. If you’re after the headier (no pun intended) aspirations of Cronenberg, you are bound to be disappointed with these. If you are hoping to see fountains of blood spewing from the skulls of random characters, this is the place.

The Disc:
I’m a bit disappointed to say that there really isn’t anything here; literally. There are no features, no subtitles, no commentary, and there isn’t even a menu besides the selection between Scanners 2 or Scanners 3. It would have been nice to have some small amount of insight into the making or perception of one of these films. Maybe these were just quick pay checks for those involved but, even that would have been worth hearing.

The packaging is a split cover with original posters for each of the films and there are some stills on the reverse side. The quality of ‘Scanners 2: The New Order’ – which seems to be given the bulk of the attention on the cover – is much higher than ‘Scanners 3: The Takeover’. The image of the latter is extremely grainy. I was a bit shocked at how bad this one looked but, when considered as a bonus to the more legitimate 2nd film, I supposed it’s forgivable.

The Features:
  • Zilch

The Specs:
  • 1080p High-Definition Widescreen 1.78:1
  • DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo
  • Original Release: ‘Scanners 2’ 1990 / ‘Scanners 3’ 1991
  • Runtime: ‘Scanners 2: The New Order’ 100 minutes / ‘Scanners 3’ 95 minutes
  • Rated R

Final Grades:

Story: B / Between the two, there isn’t a half-bad story of corporate greed and power-hungry bad guys.

Presentation quality: D / Scanners 2 looks alright but no time has really been put into these releases.

Scare factor: C / Mostly as a result of the frighteningly bad acting.

Gore Factor: A / This is the place to be for body horror.

Repeat view-ability: B / I don’t know that I care to see Scanners 2 again but the third film is hilarious.

Add Scanners 2 &3 to your collection, click HERE!

Check out yesterday’s Scream Factory review, Dead Souls!

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