Scanners: A ‘Mind-Blowing’ Good Flick

This week I’m finishing up my first full tax season as an administrative assistant for a CPA firm here in Omaha.  Learning how to process tax returns on the fly with no experience has left my brain a little fried.  There were days when I thought my head was going to explode.

Kinda like this…


OK, maybe not THAT much.

Granted, that was a MAJOR spoiler if you haven’t seen the movie Scanners, but the head explosion scene is the most recognized and famous scene from the 1981 horror classic starring Stephen Lack (Dead Ringers) as scanner Cameron Vale and Michael Ironside (Visiting Hours, Total Recall, V: The Final Battle) as scanner Darryl Revok.  I first saw the head explosion scene as part of a horror film documentary called Terror in the Aisles, which came out in theaters in October 1984. I couldn’t wait to see the entire film once I found out what it was! This was the first film directed by David Cronenberg (The Fly, The Brood, The Dead Zone, Dead Ringers) that I watched, but certainly not the last. I am forever a fan of Cronenberg and Ironside (especially the latter).

For those unfamiliar with the movie, a brief rundown: “Scanning” is a form of telepathy – but instead of using the power to win big at a casino it is seen as a menace – people who have this telepathy (“Scanners”) are viewed as misfits, loners, and outsiders by society because they are deemed mentally unbalanced – after all, they hear “voices” that drive them insane. The voices, in reality, are the inner thoughts of all those around them talking at once – a virtual cacaphony of sound 24/7/365 and only an injection of a drug can keep the voices at bay.


Darryl Revok (Ironside) wanted to relieve his mind of the voices so much he took a power drill to his skull when he was in his 20s. As the movie begins Revok, now a man in his mid 30s, has become the leader of an underground network of scanners. He shows up (as a guest) to a panel discussion about scanning techniques and how they can be used in business, finance and government. Revok “volunteers” to be scanned as a demonstration of what scanners can do. He turns the tables on those present when he takes over the demonstration, leading to the assassination of the scanner (as seen in the video clip above).


Cameron Vale (Lack) learns through the course of the film to harness his scanning powers so he can infiltrate the underground and stop Revok. The final confrontation between Vale and Revok nearly rivals that head explosion scene. For a film shot in the early 80s the special makeup effects are really outstanding.

If you love Michael Ironside (and I do) or just love the idea of watching a dude’s head explode on camera barely 20 minutes into the film (not for the squeamish) check out Scanners.  A great way to spend an evening.

You may want to pass on the popcorn though…




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