Scanners II: The New Order (1990) poster

Scanners II: The New Order (1991)


Canada. 1991.


Director – Christian Duguay, Screenplay – B.J. Nelson, Producer – Rene Malo, Photography – Rodney Gibbons, Music – Marty Simon, Physical Effects – Cineffects (Supervisor – Ryal Cosgrove), Makeup Effects – Shadoworks (Supervisor – Mike Smithson), Production Design – Richard Tasse. Production Company – Allegro Films/Filmtech Productions


David Hewlett (David Kellum), Yvan Ponton (Commander Wayne Forrester), Isabelle Mejias (Alice Leonardo), Raoul Trujillo (Peter Drak), Vlasta Vrana (Lieutenant Guy Gelson), Deborah Raffin (Julie Vale), Tom Butler (Dr Morse), Dorothee Berryman (Mayor Franzoni), Murray Westgate (George Kellum)


David Kellum arrives in the city from Iowa to study as a veterinary student but then starts to break out as a scanner. After using his powers to blow away hoods in a convenience store robbery, he is recruited by police commander Wayne Forrester who gets David to use his scanner powers to make the mayor appoint him Police Chief. When David learns that Forrester’s plans entail the creation of a police state run by scanners, he flees. Pursued by Forrester, the police and Forrester’s pet scanner, the crazed Peter Drak, David goes in search of his past. He links up with his sister Alice and together they try to stop Forrester and the sinister neurological institute where he is creating a scanner army.

This was the first of a series of sequels spun off from David Cronenberg’s Scanners (1981). (See below for the others). Scanners was a wonderfully cerebral variation on psi-powers themes. This is a perfect example of how not to make a sequel.

Most of the plot is copied direct from the first film – the opening with a scanner living homeless; the scene where the good scanner is tested against another scanner and asked to physically possess his body; the male and female scanner on the run. The film’s most creative move seems to be replacing Patrick McGoohan’s ambiguous corporation head with a morally ambiguous police chief.

All the ideas of the original are translated into absurdly physical terms. The original’s head exploding trick was a show-capping novelty but here the effect is overused to the point of tedium – now heads explode every time scanners battle. The sequel is a film devoid of any intellectual content – it is only a show being put on by the special effects men. The opening with the incredibly badly overacting Raoul Trujillo going berserk in a video arcade, sending guards flying through the air and blowing the entire place up, is an absurd display of pyrotechnics – it has no effect, it is not anything that is being acted out by human beings.

Scanners David Hewlett and Deborah Raffin on the run in Scanners II: The New Order (1990)
Scanners David Hewlett and Deborah Raffin on the run

If Scanners II: The New Order has any purpose as a film, it seems to be one of sadism. It may seem odd to criticise a horror film for sadism. Oddly though, this is a film that is far more sadistic than the crude obviousness of Friday the 13th (1980) and the slasher cycle even if it may not be until you think about it afterwards. More often than not, the film seems to lead up to long involved mental struggles between the hero and various villains on screen, resulting in the bad guy’s head protractedly blowing up or their meltdown, even one victim’s impalement on his own syringes. In voyeuristically lingering on these scenes, the film surely justifies and dramatically sanctions sadistic murder on the part of the heroes.

The other Scanners sequels are:- Scanners III: The Takeover (1992), Scanner Cop (1994) and Scanner Cop II: Volkin’s Revenge/Scanner Cop II: The Showdown (1995). All of these are dire. Sensibly, David Cronenberg has taken the money, distanced himself from any involvement in any of the sequels and discreetly refrained from making any comment in the press.

Scanners II: The New Order was the directorial debut of Christian Duguay who would go onto make Scanners III, the human bomb thriller Live Wire (1992), the comic-book superheroine tv pilot Model By Day (1993), the interesting sf film Screamers (1995), the action film The Art of War (2000), the dire Hitler: The Rise of Evil tv mini-series (2003), Human Trafficking (2005) and the horror film Boot Camp (2007).

Trailer here

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