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Scanners II: The New Order Reviews

Like THE FLY 2, another non-Cronenberg sequel to a David Cronenberg film, SCANNERS II focuses on the weakest part of the first picture--the silly story--and fails to improve it with the flashes of metaphorical brilliance that redeemed the original. Long after the dreary expository passages in SCANNERS have been forgotten, one is left with the memory of a film-within-the-film of a disturbed scanner, a bandage painted with an eye on his forehead, explaining that he drilled a hole through his own skull to let the demonic voices escape, or the image of a high-strung scanner who's channeled his neuroses into sculpture perched precariously atop his giant reproduction of a human head and insisting that his art keeps him sane. Cronenberg wasn't interested in making a sequel, but producer Pierre David was, so ten years later, SCANNERS II has arrived. Young David Kellum (David Hewlett) is a veterinary student with an unusual gift: he's a scanner, a telepath who can read minds, move objects and influence the thoughts of others. And he's not alone--a tranquilizer prescribed for many pregnant women created a generation of scanners. David, a stable and well-adjusted young man, is of great interest to right-wing law-and-order nut Commander John Forrester (Yvon Ponton) who, in collusion with Dr. Morse (Tom Butler), intends to use scanners to build a militaristic "New Order" for the future. They see great potential in David, whose powers have been largely untapped. But their work with previous scanners has been less than successful; scanners are prone to mental instability, and the drug Morse has developed to control this problem damages their minds. His research facility is full of pathetic zombie scanners who do nothing but inject themselves with the drug and stare at the walls. Kellum is tricked into helping Forrester become acting chief of police, but soon realizes he's a dangerous fanatic and tries to fight back. Forrester's men--including evil scanner Drak (Raoul Trujillo)--respond by shooting Kellum's parents, strengthening his determination to stop Forrester before it's too late. He also learns that he has a sister, Julie Vale (Deborah Raffin), a powerful scanner. Together, they invade Morse's research facility. They kill Morse, Drak and Forrester, liberate the drug addicted scanners and reveal the New Order for the fascistic charade it is. SCANNERS is far from the most successful film by Canadian writer-director David Cronenberg, whose subsequent work includes VIDEODROME, THE FLY, DEAD RINGERS and NAKED LUNCH. Its underlying theme, however, is an interesting one: scanning, which sounds like some flower-child dream come true (now we can all be really open with one another), actually condemns most of its recipients to insanity because they can't bear the relentless pressure of other people's random, uncensored thoughts. It really couldn't have happened any other way, since only David Cronenberg can make a David Cronenberg film, but it's unfortunate that SCANNERS II: THE NEW ORDER, directed by Christian Duguay from a screenplay by B.J. Nelson, is as unimaginative as it is. It features the usual special effects (popping veins, exploding heads and so on, none of which can touch the groundbreaking exploding head that got SCANNERS off to a memorable start), the usual conspiracy-driven story and the usual romantic subplot--in all, it delivers what genre fans demand without giving one iota more. Unreleased theatrically in the United States, SCANNERS II: THE NEW ORDER was obviously aimed from the start at the video rental market. (Violence.)