The power of the mind is an intriguing idea. It’s an idea that explores possibilities; it’s an idea that explores the limits as well as the extent of power, in which case Cronenberg is dealing with extrasensory perception not merely as a means of leaving an impression on genre cinema but also as a means of arousing interest. He does this throughout Scanners, and while doing so, he stresses the sense of discovery as to what the scanners are capable of and what makes them tick. In this regard, the scenes in which Dr. Ruth teaches Cameron to control his abilities are of particular interest. Not only do they illustrate that Cameron is developing a sense of self, but they also illustrate that as a scanner, he is familiarizing himself with the extent of his power, and as such, the question as to whether he is able to outmatch Revok is all the more substantial.
In addition to exploring the power of the mind, Cronenberg is dealing with power in a corporate sense. This is of note for two reasons: it speaks to Revok’s plans for world dominance, and it goes to show that, like any good villain, he doesn’t simply rely on overpowering his victims. In fact, there are very few instances in which he does so, which is smart on Cronenberg’s part because it illustrates that he is attentive to the relationship between the collective and the individual, along with generating suspense. It’s a well thought-out approach, and it adds to the sense of isolation.
Another aspect of note is that of ephermol. It acts as a suppressant, as Cameron and Revok’s abilities prove to be quite powerful, but at the same time, it lacks effectiveness to the point where it comes off as ill-judged. This is interesting in that Cronenberg’s portrayal of society is such that while scanners have acclimated, very few are aware of the extent of their abilities, and so there is an imbalance between suppression and understanding. There is a contrast between fitting in and being treated as a freak of nature. The writing isn’t particularly strong in this regard, and I wish it were fleshed out more given that the film deals with characters who are the result of science gone wrong; but nonetheless, this isn’t void of interest. In fact, there are some things to chew on given the allusions to the dangers of genetic engineering as the side effects of ephermol suggest. This isn’t something I’ve considered in light of Cronenberg’s films, so my appreciation for them has deepened.
To me, there is more to Scanners than the famous head-exploding scene, though I can’t deny that it has stuck with me. It’s memorable, and the finale is as well, so I can’t knock Cronenberg for that. I do think there are some predictable moments, and I think the pacing is uneven, but overall, this is a captivating effort, and I’m glad to have revisited it
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