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Scanners II: The New Order/Scanners III: The Takeover Double Feature (Blu-ray Review)

Scanners II-III-Double-FeatureFor ten years, the world was asking for a sequel to David Cronenberg’s Scanners.  And in 1991, Malofilm and Triton Pictures responded (twice).  Okay, maybe not so much.  Ten years following the original film a back to back set of sequels were released.  This was during a period in the late 80s/early 90s when straight to video movies were becoming a hot trend.  A lot of older movies (especially in the horror genre) were suddenly getting, a lot of the times, unintended sequels down this route (Silent Night Deadly Night and the Puppet Master sequels come to mind).  Scanners somehow wound up a likely target and produced back to back ones.  And a few years later, two more would spawn.  For fans of the series or those nostalgic for their old video store days, Scream Factory has gotten a hold of and put to Blu-ray the first two sequels to Scanners for a double feature disc, before the original has even found a proper US release (it is available in other territories). 

Scanners II A

Scanners II: The New Order

David Kellum, a veterinarian intern, has the ability to read minds and control others thoughts.  After moving to the city, David is caught in the middle of a convenience store robbery.  During the altercation, David kills one of the robbers using his mind.  Police Commander John Forrester sees David’s actions on the security tape and seeks him out.  He lets him know he is a Scanner and brings him aboard the police’s Scanner program to help catch elusive criminals.  David soon learns however, that Forrester is using the Scanner program for personal and political gain.  He becomes a marked target when he refuses to continue and is on the run to discover his true past and put an end to Forrester’s plan.

Scanners II is a soft retread of its predecessor.  This one takes the audience through a rediscovery of the Scanner concept and the folks using it to an advantage.  Because of this, as the next chapter in the series, it doesn’t take any of the groundwork laid in the first film much further at all.  And in that regard is a pretty big disappointment.  We as an audience have seen the first film. So, while the characters are discovering powers for the first time and being taught the ins and outs, we aren’t.  This leads to a lot of holding back on action sequences and effects to sort of savor and slowly reveal things.  There is some cool effect work, including a nifty head explosion, but pretty much all the cool stuff is reserved for the final ten minutes of the film.  And a lot of it you saw in the previous movie.

The result of this holding back and natural discovery leads to a lot of boredom.  The film doesn’t make up for any of it in other aspects as well.  The acting is pretty bad and the storytelling gets a bit overdone (especially when it ties itself to the first film).  There’s an interesting concept or two, but none of it is really explored.  Raoul Trujillo gives such an overzealous and terrible performance that it clears the way for the remainder of the cast to not look so bad.  Maybe he was taking one for the team.  When his character finally meets his fate, you clap not because it was a villain that deserved it but because you’re tired of seeing him hamming it up onscreen.

While the first Scanners made for a very slow sci fi/horror thriller, it at least was introducing these concepts, exploring them and featured intriguing, well-rounded characters.  It had a captivating villain and a great moral dilemma for its protagonist in the endgame.  Scanners II tries to ape that, in what it thinks is a fresh way, but to no avail.  It’s pretty hollow, boring and just doesn’t want to deliver its gory action goods, as if saving them for later will make it all better.  I know the film was a cheap straight to video sequel made almost ten years later, but as the following film would prove, they could have gone a little bigger on the effects.

Scanners III C

Scanners III: The Takeover

Alex and Helena Monet are siblings with Scanner abilities.  After a demonstration of his powers gone wrong, Alex has banished himself to become a monk like figure on the other side of the world.  Their father creates an Ephemerol variant meant to suppress and make Helena feel more comfort with her abilities.  However, it cuts off her moral conscious and creates a vile being with world domination on the brain.  After killing her father, Alex is brought back to confront and stop his sister.  But his sister is already one step ahead, sending her own troop of Scanners to kill Alex before he even gets to her.

Scanners III is the movie I was hoping the last one would be and to a degree even the original.  Aside from the Scanner people and the background of the symptom, it’s a pure one-off story.  It’s a well paced, action packed adventure that isn’t afraid at all to give you the goods.  Scanner powers are used in full from start to finish.  There’s even a natural evolution of what those powers can do.  You’ll never be bored with it.  Do not mistake my praise for greatness, I’m just saying that this thing moves and in a good way.  The film never gives you time to sit and relish in bad plot points, holes or anything.  It doesn’t feel rushed either.  Scanners III is a bit of a thrill ride and a complete joy following its predecessor.

The film features a lot more action a lot more frequently.  They are actually well staged and shot sequences.  While the stuntman for Steve Parrish is completely obvious (I think he even has a goatee while the actor is actually clean shaven), the scenes and stunts are too fun to worry about that.  The highlights are a motorcycle chase and a rooftop shootout.  This is a cheap movie, but there’s absolutely no evidence in that with the craft brought to the film.  Also, the gore and head explosions come aplenty.  Scanners be scanning.  There’s some good blood, limbs flying and gross body damage in place.  The film isn’t afraid to go there.  And it shouldn’t be embarrassed by it.  The effects look quite good.  Especially considering this is a straight to VHS 1991 cheapie.

The acting is a little bit of a step up from the previous entry. Liliana Komorowska is definitely going all in here.  And while she’s not very good, she’s wonderful on the eyes and is entertaining to watch go overboard with her performance.  There’s a weird tonal shift whenever her cronies show up though.  They’re all very much straight out of some 40s comic book adaptation.  Things go a little screwball.  Although, it’s almost fitting considering whom they’re working for.  Brutal things do happen to these folks and some feels a bit dark considering their behavior while other deaths go right in line with their performance choices.  Our lead character is solid, except when he’s getting laid.  Trust me.  For a two minute sequence this guy is WAY off from the character he was before and returns to after.

Scanners III might not be an overall better crafted film than the original, but (and I’m ready to get flack for this) is a bit more watchable.  None of it felt like a chore and it was a real smooth trip to Scannerville.  The film focuses more on being carried by its action beats than trying to delve into psychological morals and whatnot that aren’t really that deep in the first place.  There’s no shallow mystery here that feels like you’re in a DMV waiting room to get to the solution.  It doesn’t spend its time trying to be smart or change the way we see movies, it just sets out to entertain.  And entertain it does.  The stakes are clear, the characters and their intentions aren’t difficult and they make the best of showing every bit of the ten dollars this thing cost on screen.  Skip Scanners II and just go straight to this one.

Scanners II B

Video

Scanners II

Scanners III

Both films are displayed in 1:78.1 framing with a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoding.  Scanners II fairs a little better.  The image is a bit on the softer side but it’s clean.  There’s some light detail, but overall nothing too incredibly impressive.  Scanners III is off and on.  Early in the film there are some noticeable dirt specs for many scenes.  There is also a heavy layer of grain prevalent throughout the film.  This is only really a bother during some office scenes and a couple at night.  There are a few close-ups in the film that look wildly impressive, but overall they are few and far between.  Both films have some decent picture quality and are good enough to get the job done.

Scanners III B

Audio

Scanners II

Scanners III

The sound of a gushing head explosion sounds nice and loud in the DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track.  There’s not a whole lot of play between the channels, but things are nice and loud.  Dialogue is clear and concise.  The action plays well.  It impressively packs some good on the low end during explosions and gun shots.  The score is never a nuisance (and believe me, these have some generic 90s super cheap synth scores that make Jason Goes To Hell look like a John Williams score).  The tracks for both films aren’t going to wow anyone or blow you away in your home theater, but they will do the trick and make for an enjoyable viewing.

Scanners II C

Extras

Scanners II & III contains no extras aside from a DVD copy of the release.  The Blu-ray disc is completely bare bones.  A menu comes up asking you which movie you want.  When you select one it goes straight to the film.  There’s no chapter select even.  When you use the pop up menu the only option available is to return to the movie selection screen.

Scanners III A

Summary

Scream Factory delivers Scanners II & Scanners III in a release covering the movies and that’s literally it.  The presentations of both are adequate enough, but because of nothing else being provided, this release has to weigh heavily on the films themselves.  Scanners II is pretty much a bore throughout its runtime.  I did really enjoy Scanners III, but I’m not sure it’s something for everyone.  So, one film is pretty solid and the other quite frankly stinks.  This release is strictly for Scream Factory collectors and fans of the Scanners series.  If you’re not sure or are on the fence with this one, err on the side of caution.  To put it in the best way I can, this is a very very niche release.


Scanners II-III-Double-Feature-Blu-ray

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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