This second sequel cuts all ties with the previous outing, and therefore with Cronenberg’s. The previous film had been a direct sequel to the first, and even attempted, not always successfully, to retain and even expand on that film’s more interesting ideas. Scanners III makes no such efforts.
After a failed mugging unleashed her dormant scanner abilities, emotionally-damaged nice girl Helena Monet (Liliana Komorowska) seeks to control her condition by self-medicating with an experimental drug developed by her scientist father. The drug appears to help, but has one unfortunate side effect – it turns the recipient into an evil mastermind. It’s a long way from Darryl Revok’s anger management issues in the first film. Here, it’s full-on world dominating, cat stroking, Eastern-European accented megalomania worthy of a Bond villain (okay, so maybe the accent isn’t down to the medication).
Meanwhile in Thailand a family friend, concerned by Helena’s worrying change of personality and hairstyle, seeks out her estranged brother Alex (Steve Parrish). Alex had travelled to the Far East to deal with his own issues of being a scanner after accidentally killing a friend at a party. After some mind versus martial arts sparring and the usual dash of eastern mysticism, Alex is on a flight back home for a belated family reunion.
The film shows an almost gleeful disregard for its rather more serious minded forebears. And it is hard to believe that the same director was responsible for both sequels. The actual scanning scenes, handled surprisingly well in previous chapters (no mean feat, as it tended to feature two people grimacing at each other) have evolved into be some sort of extreme gurning contest. The already dubious science involved is stretched to further ludicrous lengths when Helena discovers her scanning ability can be transferred onto video tape and broadcast into every home via the television network.
As with the previous outings, Helena envisages a world with scanners running the show and, with the help of patients sprung from the same mental institution where she was once incarcerated, she sets about building her utopian dream. Unfortunately for her (and us) the scanners she recruits are a ridiculous bunch of comedy goons. They wouldn’t have looked out of place as villains in the sixties Batman TV series. You almost expect the numerous fight scenes to be punctuated by cartoon flashes exclaiming ‘Wham!’ or ‘Ka-pow!’
An increase in the (exploding) head count might satisfy those who found the previous outings a little too light on the gore. And there are one or two entertaining moments (one likes to think that the school bus/motorbike chase was supposed to be played for laughs). This is about as far from the original as you can get – unless someone decides to make a fourth one as a musical (probably not as far-fetched as it sounds – Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly was turned into an opera by Howard Shore in 2008).
Scanners III is best summed up in a word unlikely to trouble reviews of anything by Cronenberg himself. That word is ‘zany!’
Director: Christian Duguay
Starring: Liliana Komorowska, Steve Parrish
Running time: 101 minutes
Original release date: May 1992
Blu-ray release date: 8 April 2013
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