Though they are technically sequels to the same original film, Scanners II and Scanners III take completely different approaches to their work. Scanners II plays it straight, making an earnest attempt to continue and build upon the mythology of the first film. Scanners III takes only the most basic elements of the Scanners concept and runs amuck, creating a demented cocktail of horror, high concept sci-fi, exploitation and lowbrow comedy. You couldn’t compare the result to Cronenberg’s original film with a straight face… but Scanners III offers the kind of brain-blitzing delights that no normal film ever could.
Scanners III is a tale of two scanner siblings, Alex (Steve Parrish) and Helena (Liliana Komorowska). Alex accidentally kills a friend while demonstrating his scanning abilities and runs off to a Thai buddhist monastery(!) to escape his guilt and learn control over his abilities. Meanwhile, Helena is coping with ever-more debilitating headaches brought on by her scanning powers. In desperation, she steals a sample of an experimental drug for scanners that her father Elton (Colin Fox) is working on. It cures the headaches… but it has the nasty side-effect of making her sociopathic.
In short order, Helena knocks daddy out of the way, takes over his company and uses the experimental drug to create a breed of similarly powerful and sociopathic scanners. When Alex is warned of what is happening, he returns to face Helena and find out what has happened to her. Unfortunately, she is too far gone from her drug use and the only way left to end her dreams of world domination is a brother-sister battle of the scanners.
The above synopsis can’t capture how utterly, over-the-top weird Scanners III is. It is full of crazy ideas about what a Scanners film should be and doesn’t let allow narrative consistency to get in the way of those crazy ideas. It almost seems as if the four writers involved in the script came up with a bunch of scenes that they wanted to see and then contrived a plot around it. Thus, you get such strange highlights as Helena using her scanning abilities to make a bird and a finger explode, a comic relief scanning army who crack bad jokes while trying to kill Alan, a scene in which Helena psychically forces a business rival do a slapstick dance in a restaurant and a scene in Thailand involving a scanner using kickboxers to do his dirty work. They also find time to work in gratuitous nude scenes for both of the film’s female leads.
As a result, Scanners III doesn’t make sense, much less serve as a proper sequel. However, if you take it as a demented rollercoaster then it offers tons of perversely inspired cheap thrills. The performances range from hammy to bland but they all manage to play the bizarre story straight, with Komorowska winning top marks with her performance as the film’s “good girl gone bad.” As inconsistently written as her role is, she manages to keep up with its contortions and deliver a performance that is surprisingly inspired.
The film also boasts effective direction from Scanners II director Christian Duguay. He does the only sensible thing with a story this crazy: he keeps his pacing fast, pushes the action to the forefront and wraps it in slick visuals. He shows the flair for action that he’d develop as his career continued with a number of well-mounted setpieces, like the kickboxing sequence and a pretty intense motorcycle/bus chase that climaxes with an explosive stunt over water.
In short, Scanners III is one of the craziest horror sequels you’ll ever see, mining the same bizarre humor and anything-goes approach to plotting and setpieces that you see in the later Nightmare On Elm Street sequels. It may not make much sense but it’s never dull and has the kind of weirdly inventive style that will keep bad-movie buffs riveted to the screen, waiting to see what crazy thing happens next.
Blu-Ray Notes: Scanners III makes its debut on blu-ray in the U.S. via a new blu-ray/DVD combo pack from Scream Factory that pairs it with Scanners II. The blu-ray was viewed for this review and it looks good, delivering a colorful and crisp image. The film’s original stereo mix is presented in lossless form on the blu-ray and it’s a dynamic, nicely defined mix. There are no special features to speak of — but the packaging and two-for-one setup offers plenty of value.