Scanners (David Cronenberg / Canada, 1981):

The third eye of evolution, the nosebleeds of revolution. Cain and Abel, out of the laboratory and into the Montreal arena, analyzed as corporate warfare in the dawn of the new decade. At the shopping mall, the young vagrant (Stephen Lack) turns his telekinetic powers on a snooty patron and finds himself strapped in an underground research chamber, convulsing before the gazes and thoughts of a crowd. Meanwhile, the renegade frère (Michael Ironside) puts his brainwaves to megalomaniacal use and the pharmaceutical patriarch (Patrick McGoohan) scrambles for damage control: "We do not trade in fantasy and dreams." David Cronenberg's deadpan techno-thriller lampoon along the lines of De Palma's Pakula spoof in The Fury, a move toward the mainstream envisioned as a nervous system in full upheaval. The peaceful underground scanners gather for a séance soon interrupted by shotgun blasts, a close-up of the commune leader (Jennifer O'Neill) shrieking cuts to the invaders bursting into flame in a frisson worthy of Argento. ("Now I know what it feels like to die," she quivers afterwards.) Later, the hacking and scanning of a conglomerate computer briefly becomes a flickering stargate sequence, ending with fireballs on both sides of the line and a phone receiver melting in the hero's gloved hand. Watching from the sidelines is the Cronenbergian monster-sculptor (Robert Silverman), a "telepathic curiosity" hiding in a giant stone noggin in his expressionistic atelier. (He taps his temples: "My art... keeps me sane.") The mind and its visceral spillage, the swirling gray matter that turns crimson before a stupefied audience, a Dalí gag (Tête Raphaëlesque éclatée). Losey's These Are the Damned and Haskin's The Power are notable antecedents, Ruben's Dreamscape continues the spell of shocks. The poetically gooey climax is a showdown of brotherly symbiosis, exorcised in the spectacle of thought melding into flesh—erupting arteries, incinerating torsos, blanked orbs and, as always with Cronenberg, a new beginning. Cinematography by Mark Irwin. With Lawrence Dane, Lee Broker, and Mavor Moore.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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