Scanners III: The Takeover (1991) – Review


With the amount of super powered franchises literally zipping across the skies these days, its genuinely dumbfounding that no one has managed to repurpose David Cronenberg’s original, brain busting Scanners into a remake or, better yet, a TV show that could finally do the telepathic concept justice.
What on earth would deter producers from capitalising on a classic brand during a time when the sheer amount of reboots could literally make your head explode? Well, might I suggest that some of the sequels that followed in the original’s wake certainly didn’t help matters much, with 1991’s Scanners II: The New Order being a noticably wobbly continuation of Cronenberg’s themes despite chucking in the odd nuked noggin to keep up the expected cranial carnage. However as rickety as Scanners II was, it’s a four-star classic compared to Scanners III: The Takeover; a goofy, comic book thriller that takes the franchise into areas that simply don’t… scan.


Scanners, the group of people born with devastating telepathic abilities that hurt them just as much as they hurt others, are still scattered across the world, despite mostly popping up in Canada. One such Scanner is Alex Monet, a mulleted yuppie type who is due to inherit the pharmaceutical empire his adopted father owns, but after a freak accident that result in his powers throwing his best mate out of a thirty story window at a party (Important tip: never drink and Scan, kids), he travels the world in the hope that he can control his Scanning abilities.
However, two years later, Alex’s adopted sister, Helena, is suffering from crippling migraines thanks to the usual Scanner side-effects, but salvation may be at hand due to EPH-3, an untested miracle cure that takes the form of a blinking, electronic patch that goes behind the ear that’s been developed by her father. Of course, Helena can’t wait for the human trials to sort out the bugs and tries EPH-3 in secret which immediately turns her into a leering super villain who starts out exploding pigeons for fun and then moves into far more sinister territory.
Using her substantial brain powers to state every paranoid whim EPH-3 has exaggerated in her megalomanical psyche, Helena aims to stage an aggressive takeover of her father’s company and wipe out the competion by any means necessary. However, to do that, she’ll have to make sure that her brother, Alex, out of the picture and sends her small army of Scanner henchmen after him while he tries to control his powers at a monastery in Thailand like some telepathic Rambo III knockoff.
Soon the stage is set for a battle of the siblings as Alex squares off against his sister who’s desires are creeping into the realms of world domination.


After the clumsy paranoia thriller antics of Scanners II, returning director Christian Duguay uses the third movie to take the franchise into the realms of overblown supervillainy with a plot that explores the ramifications of how dangerous matters could get if aggresive Reaganomics were implemented with someone who can literally bend others to their will. On paper, it’s a very Cronenbergian concept, however, in practice, Scanners III is a cartoonish mess that veers from the body horror of the original into something so camp, you’re fully expecting the words “‘kaboom” to literally appear onscreen once movie gets its inevitable head explosions out of the way.
Featuring a plot so childish, it wouldn’t seem out of place in a pilot for a Saturday morning cartoon show, the Scanner franchise drunkenly stumbles into laughable territory that certainly provides more than it’s fair share of unintentional laughter, but ultimately comes across as irredeamably silly.
Taking the story into ludicrous extremes, I’m not entirely certain of the exact moment the movie launches itself over the shark on a rocket-powered motorbike, but we certainly have a lot to choose from. The movie opens with Alex launching his Santa-dressed friend out a window after a mere hand on his shoulder causes a fatal lapse in concentration – this leads to his somewhat extreme decision to vanish and train with monks to get his telekinetic shit together as if this is something everyone would consider. From here, things only get a hell of a lot broader chiefly thanks to the performance of Liliana Komorowka, who portrays the rapidly sanity-challenged Helena as if Joan Collins’ Alexis Colby from Dynasty suddenly became fucking Magneto. Graduating from the same school a female supervillainy as the impossibly sultry Diana from the 80’s V miniseries, it’s genuinely nice to see a ropey, sci-fi flick featuring a woman as its main antagonist, but the fact that she’s transformed into an impeccably dressed, toothy sadist barely twenty minutes after trying out EPH-3 for the first time is pretty lazy to say the least. The the plot loses all control of her arch plan to use her Scanning skills on the whole of Canada through live television and her dialogue soon goes the same way as she shrieks such Oscar worthy lines such as “You medlesome little twerp!” Zor that time tested classic, “You pathetic weakling!”.


Contrasting Helena’s barely restrained malevolence is Steve Parrish’s painfully vanilla Alex, whose distinctive bone structure looks like what you’d get if David Dastmalchian had joined a 90’s boy band and his Rambo III/Batman Begins hero journey is more likely to evoke uncontrollable giggles rather than empathy. Matters are made even worse by the string of goofy action sequences the movie has him blunder through that couldn’t be less Cronenberg if you physically tried. Whether it’s Helena’s band of overacting Scanner henchmen mind controlling some Thai kickboxers into becoming part-time assassins, or a busty Scanner nurse luring our hero into some weird laser contraption, you’ll only find yourself on the edge of your seat because you’ve left the remote control just out of reach and you can’t resist the urge any longer to fast forward this trash.
Still, if a Scanners movie is good for anything, its absurd body-horror, but even the sight of a dude getting mulched in the g-forces caused fast spinning revolving door, or another guy having his head puffed out like a balloon while underwater isn’t enough to prevent the climax collapsing into parody. There is probably more hilarious mind control gurning in the Alex vs. Helena finale alone than there is in the rest of the entire franchise as both actors seem dead set to win a contest to see who can pull the most ridiculous face. It’s a testament to their feature stretching talents that the loser turns out to be we, the audience.


About as far away from the original Scanners as Batman And Robin is from A Serbian Film, Scanners III is one takeover that provides a far worse headache than the telepaths on the screen could ever hope to muster.


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