aka Scanners: The Showdown
Director – Steve Barnett, Screenplay – Mark Sevi, Producer – Pierre David, Photography – Thomas Jeurett, Music – Richard Bowers, Special Effects – S.P.F.X. Ltd (Supervisor – Steve Patino), Makeup Effects – Magical Media Industries Inc (Supervisor – John Carl Buechler), Production Design – Terri Schaetzle. Production Company – Showdown Productions Inc/The Image Organization/Republic Pictures.
Daniel Quinn (Officer Sam Staziak), Patrick Kilpatrick (Karl Volkin), Khrystyne Haje (Carrie Goodheart), Stephen Mendel (Jim Mullins), Robert Forster (Captain Jack Bitters), Brenda Swenson (Gloria Avionis), Barbara Tarbuck (Rachel Staziak)
The rogue scanner Karl Volkin makes an escape from arrest. Seeking revenge, he sets out to track down scanner police officer Sam Staziak. At the same time, Staziak starts trying to find Volkin but discovers that Volkin is becoming more powerful by devouring the lifeforce of the scanners that he kills.
David Cronenberg’s Scanners (1981) is a film that dealt with psychic powers them in some dazzlingly conceptual ways. Cronenberg subsequently sold the rights to the series whereupon Canadian producers Rene Malo and Pierre David mounted four sequels between them (see below for other titles).
The sequels took the initial concept wholly into the exploitation arena. In the sequels, Cronenberg’s cerebral level of ideas have been reduced to the equivalent of psychic shoot–’em-ups – each sequel seems to come with a requisite quota of head explosions per film. The trouble is that Cronenberg’s film was about a psychological reaction to psychic powers, whereas the sequels try to use the powers in rudimentary action plots with clichéd heroes and villains. The psychic powers are given no limits in the sequels – the scanners are so absurdly powerful that the films turn into ridiculous comic-books. Which in itself may not have been too bad if handled decently, but none of the sequels are written or directed with the remotest appearance of any intelligence.
The script for Scanner Cop II: Volkin’s Revenge comes from Mark Sevi who specialises in screenplays for low-budget films – he churned out Ghoulies IV (1993), Class of 1999 II: The Substitute (1994), Arachnid (2001), Pterodactyl (2005) and several Relentless sequels, among others. Scanner Cop II: Volkin’s Revenge is fairly moronic – in fact, it is the worst of the Scanners sequels. It takes over half the film for the hero to work out that Volkin is a psychic vampire, something the audience has already known from the beginning. The demonstrations of scanner power are a catalogue of absurdities, the height of which is surely the scene where Daniel Quinn performs psychic heart fibrillation on Khrystyne Haje.
The ludicrousness of these scenes is heightened by the reliance on John Carl Buechler for the head-popping effects. [John Carl Buechler is the provider of cheapjack makeup effects for many B and Z-movie productions, including the Ghoulies series]. Buechler’s various head-poppings and psychic meltdowns lack even the slightest conviction – the worst here being the dissolving of a pickpocket in a darkened alley. The film inevitably climaxes with the hero blowing the villain’s head off.
The fact that Scanner Cop II: Volkin’s Revenge is a fantasy film hardly disguises the basic sadism of the act. If in any action film, the show climaxed with Schwarzenegger or Stallone blowing the lead villain’s head off with a shotgun at point blank range and was directed in a way that dwelt upon every detail of the shooting, the film would be condemned as unduly sadistic, yet seems to excused here because the film is a fantasy exercise.
Among the cast, Daniel Quinn appears an amazingly canny ringer for a younger Brad Dourif, although is far too young to carry the film. Patrick Kilpatrick projects a monosyllabic villainy effectively, although all the leering he engages in as he is supposed to devour the lifeforce of the other scanners is over-the-top.
Director Steve Barnett also made Emmanuelle V (1987), Hollywood Boulevard II (1989), Mindwarp (1992) and Mission of Justice (1992). These days he works as a post-production supervisor.