Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Scanners II: The New Order (Canada, 1991)

(Spoilers) Ten years after David Cronenberg released his infamous splatter-classic Scanners (1981) the first of numerous follow-ups finally reached the big screen. In his first theatrical release, Christian Duguay does a passable job with Scanners II: The New Order (Trailer), though the film shows relatively little of the craftsmanship he was to demonstrate later in Live Wire (1992) or the indefinitely better Screamers (1995). For a cheap B-film, Scanners II is competently made, tight in both style and narrative structure. And, as unobtrusive and lacking-in-personality as the hero David Kellum (David Hewlett) is, he is still much more interesting and likeable than the talentless Stephan Lack, who almost ruined Cronenberg's film with his lackluster portrayal of the Good Scanner.
In no way an essential movie, Duguay's film is a low-budget coming of age film spiced up with exploding heads, flying bodies and a few deformed faces, perfectly okay for some winter Sunday afternoon when nothing better is available.
The basic idea remains the same as in Scanners – in fact, the basic plot (good scanner vs. bad scanner and a nasty bigwig pulling strings in the background) is almost identical. Due to some medication taken by pregnant mothers to calm their nerves (but obviously not Distaval or Talimol or Nibrol or Sedimide or Quietoplex or Contergan or Neurosedyn or Softenon or Whateveritwascalledinyourhomecountry), their children (and the children of their children, in David's case) are gifted with special psychokinetic powers. We learn in the opening scenes of the movie, after the police come and sedate Drak (Raoul Trujillo), a scanner gone bonkers in a pinball arcade, that the government is keeping known scanners under control in a secret compound by getting them addicted to some heroin-like drug. Nice guy David Kellum gets unmasked as a scanner when he is caught on video wiping out two would-be robbers after they bruise his non-scanner girlfriend Julie (Deborah Raffin). Commander John Forrester (Yvon Ponton), a Machiavellian megalomaniac out to form a "New Order" in government convinces David to assist him. Once David becomes a Doubting Thomas, Forrester frames the lad for the murder of the governor and then has the farmer boy's adoptive parents shot. Learning that he has a sister, David hooks up with her and, by "possessing" the mind of one of the bad guys, they learn of the basement full of scabby scanner hop-heads. For the big showdown they break into the compound to free their fellow scanners before David, with the help of all the scanner junkies, finally defeats Drak. Then the press arrives and Forrester's dastardly plot is revealed and ruined, and after he tries one last time to kill David, the scanners get pissed off and deform his head. The End.
At least until the following year, when Duguay directed Scanners III: The Takeover.

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