Scanners II: The New Order / Scanners III: The Takeover Blu-ray Review
Directed by Christian Duguay
Written by B.J. Nelson
1991, Region A, 199 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on September 10th, 2013
David Hewlett as David
Deborah Raffin as Julie
Yvan Ponton as Forrester
Raoul Trujillo as Peter Drak
Liliana Komorowska as Helena
Valerie Valois as Joyce
Steve Parrish as Alex
Colin Fox as Dr. Monet
In 1981, legendary director David Cronenberg (Videodrome, The Fly) continued to explore his favorite cinematic nightmare of people not in control of their own bodies with Scanners, a twisted and disturbing tale of good versus evil. The central plot involved people with the ability to influence others and possibly kill using telekinesis and telepathy. Ten years after the release of the movie, producers Pierre David & Renald Pare secured the rights to make a pair of direct-to-video sequels that no one was asking for. Director Christian Duguay (Screamers) and writer B.J. Nelson (Lone Wolf McQuade) were brought on board to expand the “scanner” mythos and they came up with some fine ideas which they saddle with increasing silliness, but they deserve points for trying. While these films were not incredibly successful, they were moderately entertaining and paved the way for two additional sequels (Scanner Cop and Scanner Cop II) a few years later.
In Scanners II: The New Order, police commander John Forrester (Yvan Ponton, Slapshot) is employing the help of scanners to assist him in solving high-profile crimes and also to clear the path for his long-term career goals. He works closely with Dr. Morse (Tom Butler, Freddy vs. Jason), who has gathered several of these subjects together in an attempt to understand their powers. The drugs used in the medical research renders the patients docile junkies, so Forrester is always on the search for a stable new recruit. His latest candidates are a wild man named Peter Drack (Raoul Trujillo, Apocalypto) and a good-natured veterinary student named David Kellum (David Hewlett, Splice)
Forrester proves to be power-hungry and doesn't feel like wasting time actually working his way to the top, so instead he uses the mental abilities of his new assistants to advance his career. David is uncomfortable with these developments and leaves the city to visit his family where he learns he has a sister, Julie (the recently deceased Deborah Raffin, Death Wish 3), with similar powers. Together they work to stop the mistreatment of scanners and end the corrupt tactics of those pursuing them. What follows is some nice work demonstrating the extent of their mind control abilities and a final showdown where the stakes could either restore order or empower a madman for limitless destruction.
Scanners III: The Takeover (also known as Scanner Force) moves the action from politics to the corporate world where everyone seems willing to do anything to get ahead. Our leads this time around are a timid scanner named Helena (Liliana Komorowska, Screamers) and her foster brother Alex (Steve Parrish, Midnight), who shares her mental abilities, but is in a self-imposed exile following the accidental death of a friend. Their father, Dr. Elton Monet (Colin Fox, Daylight), believes he has come up with a cure for his children, but Helena unwittingly takes a sample before it has been fully tested and the results are less than pleasant.
Her headaches disappear but so does her moral compass, and things take a nasty turn once she discovers a taste for power and bloodshed. Using her mad skillz to get her way, Helena exacts revenge on anyone who has crossed her and begins recruiting an army of scanners to extend her reach. As Helena's evil grows, Alex must return home to confront his sister and patch things up with his estranged girlfriend. Action soon takes a backseat to comedy before rebounding with a nifty idea involving mass-hypnosis mind control by way of national television broadcasts, but suspense and horror remain absent from the proceedings altogether.
Scanners brought an original and creative idea to the table and delivered in a big way, both in style and substance. The film dealt with larger themes of personal identity and pointed to the dangers of the militarization of scientific advances. The sequels side-stepped the introspective gloom and went for a larger vibe of action and, later, comedy. Director Duguay stands in the long shadow cast by Cronenberg, but keeps things moving at a decent pace that will hopefully prevent viewers from noticing the stories’ weaknesses, particularly in the third installment. While there are many things to complain about, it is worth mentioning that despite the limitations, Duguay and Nelson introduce several cool ideas, including the scanning ability to control someone and look through that person’s eyes and the ability to influence people via television monitor.
Unfortunately, the creativity hits a wall once they decide to include jokes and over-the-top comic interludes, at one point even stopping the proceedings for an impromptu dance number. Diehard fans of the Cronenberg film will know they are in trouble when these scanners demonstrate their thrilling powers by curing sick puppies or making video games play themselves. Sadly, the limited budgets restricted the overall quality of both acting and effects work available to the productions and while the results are not terrible, they are easily forgettable. The original film worked because of the talent involved and the content is not as successful in lesser hands. What results is a lot of over-exaggerated facial expressions meant to convey power or struggle but instead come off looking silly and constipated.
Video and Audio:
Both films are presented in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio with a generally fine appearance, but neither has undergone much restoration. There is an impressive amount of small object detail in people's faces and clothing, but a general softness to many of the wider shots. Skin tones appear normal and black levels and colors are generally solid. While these will never be used as reference quality titles, the picture is an improvement over the earlier VHS and Laser Disc releases.
The only audio option included is a DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track that preserves the original sound design. Dialogue remains free from distortion while music and effects tracks occasionally push the boundaries of the front-heavy mix.
There are no special features or subtitles on this disc.
A DVD copy of the films is also included.
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