Home Video Hovel: Scanners II / Scanners III, by Mat Bradley-Tschirgi
Sequels to a cult film by celebrated director are always a tough sell. They usually end up as either milquetoast makeovers of the original or boldy go where the narrative has not gone before. With Scanners II: The New Order (1991) and Scanners III: The Takeover (1991), director Christian Duguay (perhaps best known for the Philip K. Dick sci-fi flick Screamers) has the Herculean task of creating sequels to David Cronenberg’s Scanners (1981). Both films at least have different takes on the premise. Scanners II is dramatic while Scanners III is comedic. The latter is greatly more effective than the former.
Set over a decade after the original, Scanners II follows the exploits of latent Scanner David Kellum. A Scanner is an individual with telekinetic and telepathic powers. If you push a Scanner too much, they might just make your head explode into ludicrous gibs. David, played by David Hewlett, is a veterinary student who has a comfy life that is thrown into disarray when he is drawn into a web of intrigue involving rogue Scanner Drak and corrupt Police Commander John Forrester. Some surprising familial links are made to the first film, but Scanners II plays things too safe. David has a girlfriend and loving parents. Raoul Trujillo plays Drak as more goofy than menacing. The plot flirts far too lightly with the alarming ethical issues of the Morse Neurological Research Institute deploying the EPH-2 drug to revert Scanners to a near comatose state; X-Men: The Last Stand worked with this theme in a much more effective fashion. Aside from an action-packed climactic assault on the lab where the Scanners are held up, there’s not much to recommend for Scanners II.
On the other hand, Scanners III is a campy delight with dialogue so absurd the screenwriters had to be in on the joke. A Star Wars-style text scroll at the start informs us that an EPH-3 drug has been in development with the noble intent to reduce the constant loud voices and high-pitched tones the Scanners have in their heads. Alex Monet is a Scanner who shows off his powers at a Christmas party, using telekinesis to push his friend across a dining room. When a friend taps him on the shoulder, Alex loses his concentration and his friend is blasted out the window to his death on the sidewalk several stories below. Distraught, Alex holes up with some monks in Thailand. Meanwhile, his sister Helena tests out a prototype of the EPH-3 patch. The patch not only stops her headaches, it also amplifies her power and perverts her personalities. She murders her father and tries to kill her brother in order to initiate a hostile takeover of Monet Pharmaceutical Industries. Liliana Komorowska is hilarious as Helena, spouting off lines like “We are women, we are strong… We can do whatever we want!” and “Let’s make it with the naked nasty!” with witty aplomb. Scanners III is truly a film best watched over chilled adult beverages with friends.
Duguay directs both films in a straightforward style with clean choreography in the action sequences. Neither Scanners II nor Scanners III are as disturbing as they would like to think they are. This double feature Blu-Ray set from Scream Factory features soft video transfers with strong colors and decent audio. A DVD with both films is also included. There are no subtitles or trailers for either film. A main menu just offers a choice between the two films. A commentary track or documentary would have been welcome to help explain why the tonal shifts between the films are so different not just from each other but from the original as well. This set is worth it for Scanners III alone, which is a hilarious, giddy mess of a movie. Scanners II has lofty ambitions that mire the movie in plot machinations that drag things down to a screeching halt.