Directed by David ("Crash") Cronenberg, this 1981 horror film is known for two things: a scene in which a bad scanner (a person with amazing psychic powers) named Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside) makes a weaker scanner's head explode, and Stephen Lack's performance as scanner hero Cameron Vale, which forced the Encyclopedia of Film to redefine the term acting by using Lack as an example of what it is not.
Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan) recruits Vale in order to infiltrate Revok's increasingly dangerous gang and stop his plan for world domination. When Vale discovers the scanners' underground network, he finds Kim Obrist (Jennifer O'Neill) and immediately falls in love. With Lack, however, it's difficult to tell whether his expression is supposed to communicate love or the intestinal discomfort caused by a piece of bad meat.
The film grows tiresome as Vale runs around trying to find Revok and elude Revok's henchmen. The decent people who come into contact with Vale usually end up dead while the bad guys, who presumably know about his psychic abilities, always point their guns at his face. This gives Vale ample time to look at them, scan them, dislodge their guns and fling them through walls. Nobody ever figures out that scanners are best shot in the back.
Cronenberg sets up a finale scene between Vale and Revok that reminds one of going to the community pool and being repulsed by the legs of elderly women. As they scan one another each seems to contract an aggressive form of varicose veins. Blood begins spurting all over the place until Cronenberg runs out of special effects money and the movie ends.
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