Scanners, 1981: Dir. David Cronenberg
It was an oily black night, as we furrowed down the highway somewhere in Tennessee, when I found my first Cronenberg film, and I was never the same sweet boy after that. I must have been about eleven or twelve, and I remember myself being transfixed by the horror and twisted nature of what was brought before my very eyes. It behooves me to preface the nature of this first encounter with Cronenberg's Scanners as a boy, and the sheer delight of it's happenstance into my lexicon of favorite horror films.
In the early eighties, growing up in Rockford, IL, our local Fox affiliate (Ch. 39) had a monster movie series called "Uncle Don's Terror Theater," which was my gateway to a plethora of films a child should never see before going to bed on a Saturday night, and provided me later as an adult with an obscure filmic vocabulary only suitable for the geekdom so many of us "film brats" halo ourselves with. A fine example of that being "The Mask",1961. A Canadian film made in 3-D, and one of the first films from our great neighbors to the North to be widely distributed in the U.S. Might I add that Mr. Cronenberg is a Canuck himself, and would surely approve of this digression. I remember making that special trip to the gas station in town to purchase my red and blue 3-D glasses for the film that evening with my friends. My dad even drove us, so we could revel in our first 3-D experience in B&W. Yes, long before our road trips as a family to Florida and our whorish indulgence of "Captain Eo" and Epcot there was Uncle Don enlightening me to great films in the horror genre.
It was on of one of those said journeys to the evil empire of Disney, when this story takes place, and so I'll continue without fear of further digression. Our family had invested in an novel black & white portable television in the eighties which was tunable and featured both UHF and VHF signals. So on those long stretches of Americana at night, I would dial in local stations from Illinois to the the gator infested shores of the Sunshine state in hopes of catching some film amidst the white noise of the airwaves. Thanks to the advent of technology and my parents middle class income; I found myself one night, amidst my feverish tuning efforts, watching Scanners, and still to this day cherish it as one of my favorite childhood memories.
At its core, Scanners is billed as a futuristic Sci-fi thriller, but to me still belongs in the horror section between Saturday the 14th and The Serpent and the Rainbow. This is one of the first films, save Carrie, to actually use telekinesis as a integral plot element, and I can't think of many other films that will blown your mind like this Cronenberg masterpiece.
Long before Akira, your favorite Scott Baio movie, or your precious Charles Xavier or Jean Grey in the X-Men, there was Cameron Vale and Darryl Revok in Scanners. I could pontificate heavily on plot points and theory, but I'd rather just tell you to find this rare gem at your local video store and rent it straight away. Halloween is almost here, so treat yourself to a film night with a cult classic in Scanners.