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Pissing Away Potential With “Scanners II”

Scanners II: The New Order
Year: 1991
Genre: Sci-Fi / Thriller
Director: Christian Duguay
Stars: David Hewlitt, Deborah Raffin, Raoul Trujillo

A scanner discovers a plot by renegade elements in the city government to take power with the help of evil scanners.

Scanners was a great movie, one of Cronenberg’s finest, and for a decade it stood it’s ground as one of the best sci-fi horror movies around.  Then 1991 someone got a wild idea to “Hey. let’s make a sequel” and then they turned everything to shit.

What’s a Future?

scanners2 1Scanners looked like it was made in 1981 but still carried about it an air that it could be the future.  It took place in that time I like to call “the future of next week,” an undefined near future, a tactic of telling a futuristic sci-fi tale without steering too far from the comfort of the contemporary.  Scanners II takes place at least 20 years after the original – even though the movie was made only 10 years after.  So this is THE FUTURE.  Not the “near future” but the “there had better goddamn be flying cars and cops with laser pistols” future.  Scanners II makes no qualms about that either – it acknowledges through it’s story and dialogue that THIS is the future.  Would be nice if the visuals fit with their vision of the future because everything here looks so 1991.  Hell, 1991 is too modern for this movie – it looks more like 1989 and it’s a 1989 Canada at that..

Our opening scene at the arcade for instance.  These games look dated even for 1991 and I’m supposed to believe this is the future?  A scanner comes in and starts playing what look like Operation Wolf with nothing but the power of his mind.  Regular 90s cops show up with regular 90s guns and take this Scanner, Peter Drak (Raoul Trujillo) to the one futuristic set-piece in the whole movie.  It’s a lab where they drug scanners and experiment various things on them – it’s a lab that looks like the science lab from every 90s produced Corman lab ever.  It’s like Corman borrowed the set of Scanners II for Carnosaur and every other movie that might have something to do with science.

Then we have our leading hero, David Kellum, the child of Cameron Vale and Kim Oberist from the first movie.  The producers cast David Hewlett in this role because if you squint hard enough he kinda looks like Stephen Lack.  Of course that makes no sense because at the end of *Scanners Stephen Lack’s body is burned and he takes over Revok’s body – so shouldn’t they have cast someone who kinda looks like Michael Ironside if you squint hard enough?

Now if this level of nitpicky seems rather uncharacteristic of me there is a reason for it.  This timeline fuckery is how Josh Hadley pitched the movie to me.

Me: Josh, why should I watch Scanners II?
Josh: Because they fucked the timeline all up.

And it’s not just as a nod to Josh that I mention the timeline and wonder about the continuity of it.  It’s important to establish this before getting to Scanners III.  You’ll see then, we’re only talking Scanners II for now.

The New Order

scanners2 2At the climax of Scanners we learned that Revok was creating an army of scanners to take over the world with but that plan was blown up like a scanner victim’s head when Cameron Vale showed up on the scene.  With a subtitle like “The New Order” attached to Scanners II one would think that this story involves someone carrying on Revok’s work – to take over the world with scanners and create, I suppose, a “new order.”  That’s not quite what’s going on here.  No, this New Order is basically one dude saying “I wanna be mayor” without any kind of the dystopian connotations associated with a phrase like “the New Order”

What we have is a police commander named John Forrester (Yvan Ponton) working with a doctor in this lab to find a way to control and exploit scanners.  All they have managed to do so far is create a drug called F2 that subdues the mental anguish of being a scanner by turning them into weak and pathetic drug addicts.  Forrester is trying to find a scanner that’s powerful enough to control his own abilities without the need for this horribly addictive drug.  He thinks he might have found that with Peter Drak but he just ends up being a bit too unwieldy.  That’s when he discovers innocent David Kellum whom he dupes into scanning the mayor in order to advance his ranks through the political system.  On a brief side-note, Raoul Trujillo’s performance of Peter Drak is so delightfully over the top you’d think he was in a different movie.

Forrester’s idea is to become the mayor, using scanners to manipulate the minds of those currently in charge and the hearts of the voters.  He wants to create the eponymous “new order” but what exactly this “New Order” consists of is never made clear.  I mean, what if his end goal is completely great – like he’s going to make a Star Trek like utopia on Earth and this is just his Machiavellian way to achieve that.  Sure he has the mayor killed and he’s constantly trying to kill David but without knowing WHY it’s hard to actually see him as a villain.  We’re told who’s the hero and who’s the villain but we’re never shown WHY they fill these roles out.

Stop what you're doing and look at this fucking puppy!

Stop what you’re doing and look at this fucking puppy!

Twincest and More

scanners2 4At the start of the movie David is working in a veterinary research lab that looks like the exact same set used for the scanners’ lab.  He meets a girl named Alice and the two take a nice liking to each other.  When he gets a headache while at work she’s there to kind of comfort him.

Alice: What’s wrong?
David: I’ve got a headache.
Alice: Be glad you don’t have Canine Encephalitis!  Look at this puppy!

And we break this moment to look at a puppy.  Apropos of nothing she abandons whatever David is feeling to say “Daw.. this puppy cute.”  Well apparently David sees something in her so he cures the puppy and they have a fine relationship going.

But then David meets his twin sister Julie Vale and things get awkward.  There is at least one moment of teasing sexual chemistry between them.  She gives him a backstory and teaches David a few new scanning techniques.  They spend a good deal of time hanging out in each others heads or hanging out in the heads of others.  They’re siblings… it’s rather creepy.  Meanwhile Alice is just waiting at home, almost oblivious to what’s going on.  So I guess that’s where the “New Order” plays into the title.

‘Sploding Heads

scanners2 5Of course there are more head explosions – it’s pretty much the trademark of the Scanners franchise.  However what was startling and awesome in Scanners is just tired and exploited here.  There’s a few times when heads explode but it’s so overdrawn and over the top that it’s no longer suspenseful.  The gore effects in Scanners II, while competently done, are just not that entertaining.  It’s like the producer looked at the fact that people enjoyed the exploding head moment in Scanners and decided “We need to make a movie of JUST that.”

Exploding heads are not the only derivative thing in Scanners II nor is it even the most obvious.  When David has a showdown with Drak it not only looks the same – they even use the same dialogue (“I’m gonna suck you dry”).  It is rather difficult to avoid comparisons to the first movie and view Scanners II for it’s own merits when it insists on being so derivative.  Still, if you’re going to rip off from something… better that it’s Scanners instead of some of the other crap in the world.

This is not as good as Scanners but one could assume that going in because it’s a sequel.  Viewed individually film struggles to connect on its merits.  There is nothing new with Scanners II and it feels like a weak homage to the first movie.  Raoul Trujillo puts in a fun performance and some of the special effects are serviceable but beyond that there’s really nothing special about Scanners II.  However this isn’t the end of the franchise.  There are still 3 more movies to plod through.

About The Author
Matthew Coats
Matthew Coats

Formerly known under the pseudonym of Alex Jowski.
Site owner, movie aficionado, and film school grad. Matthew Coats presents reviews, some written, some as vlogs, and some as weekly shows, for a variety of different movies and television shows. After years of struggling to get his own projects off the ground amidst the normal routine of living, Matthew Coats decided to create a site in order to share and promote movie reviews, video games and much much more from talented and original people all across the internet.

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