Criterion is rumored to have David Cronenberg’s SCANNERS, but Shout! Factory’s got the second and third parts on a well-priced Blu-ray/DVD combo as part of their Scream Factory line.
In SCANNERS II: THE NEW ORDER, veterinary student David Kellum’s (David Hewlett, PIN) chronic migraines have gotten worse since he has moved to the city, exploding into an all-out telekinetic assault when his girlfriend Alison (Isabelle Mejias, JULIE DARLING) is attacked during a convenience store robbery. His abilities come to the attention of politically ambitious Quebec police commander John Forrester (Yvan Ponton, SLAPSHOT) who has been working with neurologist Dr. Morse (Tom Butler, FREDDY VS. JASON) – whose drug for treating Scanner symptoms has proven lethally addictive – on training Scanners to fight crime. Forrester explains to David that his abilities are a genetic mutation as the result of an experimental drug administered to his mother and other pregnant women in the sixties that had unusual side effects. Forrester offers to help David control his powers and use them for good. He starts off by having David scan the employees of a milk company to discover the identity of a serial poisoner responsible for the deaths of several children. Starting to feel for once as if he isn’t a freak, David reluctantly agrees to scan the mayor (Dorothée Berryman, THE RED VIOLIN) and influence her to appoint Forrester the new police chief; however, psychopathic rival Scanner Peter (Raoul Trujillo, THE ADJUSTER) – who personally removed the previous chief himself – tells David about Forrester’s real plans for the Scanners.
In SCANNERS III: THE TAKEOVER, Scanners are regarded as an urban legend until Alex (Steve Parrish, MIDNIGHT) is goaded into performing a telekinetic party trick that inadvertently results in the death of his best friend. Although legally found innocent of the accident, Alex is unable to face his friends or his adoptive father Dr. Elton Monet (Colin Fox, FOOD OF THE GODS II) and leaves behind the family pharmaceutical business in search of inner peace. His childhood friend Helena (Liliana Komorowska, THE ART OF WAR) – also his sister by way of the same adoption – has had less control over her powers and thus lives at home. When her father reveals that his company has been working on a less addictive form of a drug that numbs Scanner sensitivity in the form of an electronic patch, Helena is eager to become his test subject. She is angered to learn that he is collaborating with sadistic Dr. Baumann (Harry Hill, RABID) from whose clinic she and Alex were rescued by Elton in the first place. When the psychic and telekinetic impulses become too overwhelming, Helena secretly applies one of the experimental patches. In addition to dulling her psychic reception, it causes aggressive personality changes. Helena kills Dr. Baumann (cue exploding head effect) and literally sells them on the experimental drug – parodying the Excedrin commercial with “I had a headache THIS big” – and martials them towards making a power grab of her father’s company to dominate the world via pharmaceuticals (and Scanner telekinesis, of course). Meanwhile, family lawyer (Daniel Pilon, MALPERTUIS) tracks down Alex – who has been living in a Thai monastery – and confides his suspicions about Helena (before being killed in an entertainingly roundabout manner by one of her Scanner acolytes).
Producer Pierre David – in collaboration with Rene Malo of Malofilm – waited ten years to turn David Cronenberg’s SCANNERS into a franchise, and this pair of features essayed by Christian Duguay (SCREAMERS) proves to be mildly diverting DTV filler rather than worthy successors to Cronenberg’s imperfect but more original film. SCANNERS II is the better of the productions with direct story ties to the first film and a more sober approach. Hewlett – who has more recently attained cult status for his roles in the show STARGATE ATLANTIS and several films by Vincenzo Natali including CUBE, NOTHING, and SPLICE – is a sympathetic lead, while Ponton’s Forrester at least seems believably well-meaning at first. Mejias has little to do as the love interest, but Deborah Raffin (GOD TOLD ME TO) appears prominently in the second half of the film as David’s long-lost sister (also a Scanner who teaches him some useful tricks). Duguay’s style in this film owes very much to that of Tony Scott, courtesy of the cinematography of Rodney Gibbons (MY BLOODY VALENTINE) with plenty of back lighting diffused by smoke and shining through horizontal blinds and spinning fans. It’s not a bad film, but it actually seems at times like a pilot for a proposed television series.
SCANNERS III – also known as SCANNER FORCE – actually looks like the older production of the two with eye-assaulting eighties hair and make-up as far as the eye can see. In contrast to SCANNERS II, the tone of this sequel is almost cartoonish. Komorowska, who was married to Duguay and appeared in a number of his films, is at least an entertaining villain but Parrish is rather dull as the hero (but then again the humbled playboy who must embrace his spiritual side before fighting evil was pretty played out even back then). Claire Cellucci (3 MEN AND A BABY) appears as the hero’s love interest, and seems particularly obligatory here. The action scenes are a certainly more spectacular than the previous film, but the make-up effects of Michael Maddi (FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER) – who worked on both films – while perfectly proficient, can only refine exploding heads – presumably achieved here with pyrotechnic charges rather than a shotgun blast – so much. I must admit that – other than the end titles rock song – I do not particularly recall the music of Marty Simon (EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS II: EDDIE LIVES!) for part two, but his synth score for the third entry sounds particularly cheap. David and Malo followed up this pair with 1994’s SCANNER COP – directed by David himself – and SCANNER COP II the following year by Steve Barnett (MINDWARP).
Shout! Factory’s set features 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 transfers of both films. SCANNERS III is the better looking in general simply because of the flatter, cleaner look in comparison to the SCANNERS II’s more complex (if derivative) photography. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo tracks are most active during the telekinetic scenes but not particularly complex. The included dual-layer DVD features 16:9 anamorphic transfers of both films from the same masters with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track. There are absolutely no extras on either disc, with only one main menu screen (and pop-up menus linking back to it) and no chapter menus; the transitions between the main menu and the selection of each of the features does spoil at least one of each of the films effects highlights. (Eric Cotenas)
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