Scanners III: The Takeover
Genre: Sci-Fi / Thriller
Director: Christian Duguay
Stars: Liliana Komorowska, Valérie Valois, Steve Parrish
A young female scanner turns from a sweet young thing into a murderous, power-crazed villain after she takes an experimental drug developed by her father. Her brother, who is also a scanner, is the only one powerful enough to stop her.
I was told by Josh Hadley that Scanners III was the worst one in the whole franchise, that it was an irredeemable piece of trash. I honestly don’t know why Josh feels such vehemence towards this movie – I rather liked Scanners III. If anything it is leaps and bounds better than Scanners II for a variety of reasons. Except for one MAJOR screw-up as far as the timeline goes, I am tempted to prematurely call Scanners III the best sequel in the franchise.
A Wonderful Opening
A group of yuppies are having themselves a friendly Christmas party and discussing this intriguing news about people called “Scanners.” One of the people involved in this conversation is Alex Monet (Steve Parrish) who is a scanner himself. We see this when he gropes a girl’s behind with the power of his mind. Yes, instead of head explosions or violence our introduction to scanners in this film is seeing a guy scan a girl’s butt. Alex’s friend, dressed in a Santa outfit, wants to be scanned because it’s apparently pretty awesome to have someone screwing around in your brain. Alex does this and it’s all good fun, until he gets distracted and throws his friend out the window and plummeting down this skyscraper to the ground. A little kid looks up and says “Mommy Look! It’s Santa!” just as “Santa” goes SPLAT right at her feet. Indeed, the first exploding head we see in Scanners III is caused not by anything psychic but rather the effects of gravity and concrete. Alex feels bad about killing his best friend and runs away to Thailand to live in a Buddhist monastery. Oh he wasn’t found guilty of murder or anything like that, he just felt that he couldn’t live around people anymore, not after the horrible thing he did.
What I loved about this opening was just how different it felt from the previous two movies. We see a different, much more naughty, aspect of scanning. Then we have this campy death followed by this excessive melodrama as Alex tells us in voiceover that the ONLY way to assuage his guilt was fleeing to Thailand to live with monks. It starts the movie off on a great note, letting you know right away that this is not going to be like the previous two films at all. It’s a sequel, yes, but from the first 5 minutes you see that this is a sequel which can stand on its own two feet.
Did They Retcon that Timeline?
Scanners took place in the “near future” beyond 1981 while Scanners II took place at least 20 years after that. Scanners III is, presumambly, set after the events of the previous film. When exactly? Well after the opening we have a title of “Two Years Later” and the next spoken line of dialogue, from two women out shopping, is “It’s the ’90s!”
Hold the phone! THE ’90S? This isn’t supposed to be the 90s! Let’s look at this. Being gracious let’s say that Scanners took place in, at the earliest, 1980. The kids in that film grew up, found careers and experienced the events of Scanners II – those kids are, at minimum, 20 years old, which would put Scanners II at taking place no earlier than 2000. This clearly takes place following the events of Scanners II. While the end of Scanners II showed to the world that these people exist, that news has died down and people don’t really care about these scanner folk anymore. The scanner drug called F2 which was the focus of most of the story in Scanners II has now been refined and made non-addictive as F3 during the course of the story in Scanners III. So… this takes place in the 1990s in a biazarro world where time flows backwards and the 1990s come after the 2000s.
That’s why I brought up the timeline in my discussion of Scanners II – because of how it’s horribly disregarded in Scanners III by the SAME producers who made Scanners and Scanners II. In fact both this movie and Scanners II were made back-to-back by the same director – you’d think they’d remember a bit about that timeline. However this is the only major complaint I have about the movie and it is, admittedly, rather petty. I’m not going to hate the movie over one line. If you can ignore that a character said “It’s the ’90s” and just accept this as being a futuristic sci-fi thriller it’s rather enjoyable. Sure it’s dated and looks like the time it was made but don’t most Sci-Fi movies look that way anyway? Just look at the atrocious level of tech in Alien and everyone loves that dated movie.
Characters I Actually Feel Motivated About
Alex initially caught my interest as a lead character because we have the same name and I tend to smile and cheer for any character named Alex (except for Tyler Perry as Alex Cross – fuck that guy). Sure he’s an unbearably selfish emo-boy in his guilt-laden journey to a Thai monastary and his entire storyline is a cliche of “The last time I used my scanner powers someone died so I can never use them again,” but hey – he’s named Alex and that’s cool by me. The point is he had character, he had a backstory and a personality – this was a person I could believe existed. Not the bland faces with names and little else from Scanners II.
Of course the real star of this movie is Liliana Komorowska as Helen Monet. The movie really is about her story. She starts a nice woman in the 1990s, having trouble coping with the headaches caused by being a scanner and trouble with the addictive nature of the F2 drug (The one that was new in Scanners II which took place AFTER the 1990s). Her father presents her a new option with F3 – a new non-addictive treatment which involves a patch placed behind her ear that’s controlled by radio waves. The new treatment works like a dream except there’s one pretty bad side effect – it turns her into a power-hungy psychotic bitch from hell. Of course she doesn’t realize she’s gone nuts or thinks that her plans for world domination are wrong. She’s not going to report this side effect at all.
The transformation of Helen’s character is fun. First we see this nice girl who then goes through some rough treatment at the hands of a crazy doctor. We feel pretty bad for her and hope this treatment does work. When it starts working and she’s made a career for herself it’s somewhat of a relief. She’s eating lunch on the patio one afternoon and a pigeon is bothering her. So she scans the pigeon and it blows up in a mess of blood and feathers all over the table and she keeps on eating in a relatively messy peace. Okay, that’s pretty awkward but pigeons are assholes, right, so her actions weren’t completely uncalled for. Then she starts on this megalomaniac quest to take over the world. She scans people to organize her own corporate takeovers of rival companies. She dominates the communications industry through murder. She develops away to scan people through the television, sending signals via camera, in a grand plot to control everyone in the world. Bitch has gone nuts and anyone that starts to figure out why (it’s that F3!) is murdered.
That’s All Good, But Are There ‘Sploding Heads?
Well, yeah, there’s that but it’s not too impressive and I have a feeling the director figured that exploding heads would just be too redundant at this point. In a good moment of creativity in the series we get to see other things explode. When Helen decides to go to the clinic to “rescue’ the other scanners from cruel Dr. Baumann she could just stroll in and make his head explode. Instead she tortures the guy for awhile and draws it out, starting by making his hand explode. Yes, this woman is deliciously insane.
A great moment that comes later in the movie is when a football game is being broadcast and Helen causes one of the player’s heads to explode and roll down the field after being tackled. Her comment on this is “Well, it’s a violent sport.”
The only person that could stop her is her brother Alex. I assume they were adopted because Alex looks and acts like Chris Klein in that awful Rollerball remake. Helen, meanwhile as a strong accent and looks and sounds like that woman from Goldeneye that snapped men in half with her thighs while having sex with them. Anyway, she sends a scanner hitman to Thailand to kill her brother which results in a pretty awesome action sequence. It’s no Ong-Bak but as far as big fights in Thailand go it’s pretty cool. People are being scanned left and right, crashing through shops in an outdoor market and it’s rather chaotic. Of course Alex is now motivated to go stop his crazy sister.
Problems With the Final Showdown
The climax is set-up when Helen gets on television and begins broadcasting her signal to the world, telling everyone that they’re now in her power and all the usual super-villain speeches. People the world over are writhing in pain as she’s basically scanning everyone in the world. Alex bursts in and they have a dialogue – but people are still being scanned. We’ve established from the beginning that scanners can be distracted that, just like everyone else, they can’t focus too heavily on too many things at once. As long as the camera is pointed at Helen people continue to be scanned regardless of what’s happening. I don’t get why but it doesn’t matter because Alex turns the camera away from her pretty quick and they have their battle. It’s not unlike the “scanner battles” from all the previous movies only there’s nobody getting mutated or murdered here. Instead the F3 patch is removed from Helen and she stares around dumbly, wondering “What the fuck did I do?” It’s rather exciting and makes for a good conclusion to the story. If it were the only conclusion….
We then get the bullshit ending. Helen, unable to cope with what she’s done, commits suicide. Alex is upset but, in the end, shrugs his shoulders and walks out. As he leaves, Helen’s soul leaves her body and goes into the camera, laughing maniacally as she’s now some sort of unkillable and all-powerful “ghost in the machine” (literal deus ex machina). I would rather forget that this ending happened as it ruins the whole movie – it takes the tangible thought of people with psychic powers and suddenly turns it into something supernatural for no reason at all. For me, Scanners III ends when Alex gets the F3 patch off his sister and then they all live happily ever after.
Despite that crappy last few moments of deus-ex-machina, I enjoyed Scanners III. Sure the timeline is all screwed up now (“It’s the 90s!”) but, so what. It was still an exciting film, with a lot of creative visuals behind it. The story itself was typical but carried out compotently enough. There’s moments where I don’t know if the movie is being intentionally campy or not but I still liked them. It’s far better than Scanners II and one could really just skip to Scanners III and not feel like they’re missing out on any kind of continuity. I’ve got these two Scanner Cop movies left to get through but thanks to how much fun I had with Scanners III I’m feeling rather optimistic about the rest of this series.