A review of an obscure indie film (courtesy of HuluPlus’ choice selection of films from the Criterion Collection), some film history & Eric Michael Kochmer. Read on to find out why indie filmmakers should care. Every #TBT.


Scanners directed by David Cronenberg (1981) Color, 103 minutes

David Cronenberg has been directing films since 1970. He started with low budget art/horror films (“Crimes of the Future” and “Stereo”) that were more interesting to read about, than to watch. Through his first decade he progressed into making TV documentaries and teamed up with a production company that made horror films and some action films. By this time he had developed a style called “Body Horror,” first largely successful with “Shivers,” and then ultimately perfected for mainstream audiences with this early 80’s work “Scanners.” Cronenberg parlayed this into even bigger films like his huge hits “The Fly” and “The Dead Zone,” both of which still contained his essential style.

scannersCronenberg still largely contained elements of this style even when he started working in other genres like: “Naked Lunch” (Cronenberg’s brilliant adaptation of William Burrough’s once thought un-filmable book), “Crash,” “Spider,” “Dead Ringers,” “The History of Violence” and “Eastern Promises.” All of these films have a special touch to them and with each film his growth is clear. His growth from obscure horror films into the prestigious heavyweight of today’s cinema isn’t at all unique, but doesn’t happen everyday.

A scanner is a person who possesses an inhuman power to telepathically merge someone’s thoughts with their heartbeat, and essentially make them explode. So, these “Scanners” are not very happy people. Usually they are lost souls or they look like your average disgruntled office worker until they begin “scanning.” One such looking office worker is Revok (played by the talented and underrated Michael Ironside). Revok volunteers to a test early in the film, unleashes his own abilities in the face of all of his co-workers and then manages to escape.

The search for Revok and the consolidation of the scanner population is the majority of the plot-line and sub-plots and while it is a bit thin because of Cronenberg’s visual aesthetic and strong character and casting choices, as well as the visual touches, it works.