The 13th Floor

Why SCANNERS III Is My Favorite X-MEN Movie

OK, listen to this premise for a movie.

A girl, her brother and her brother’s girlfriend attend a small Christmas party in the city. Throughout the get together, the conversation among the party goers revolves around the rumor of these super powered beings out there in secret; people that have the ability to not only read minds, but to move things with their sheer will. Some claim it’s merely science fiction, but it turns out the brother is one of those rare people with these “abilities.” He’s pushed into demonstrating his powers, something goes horribly wrong and he accidentally kills his best friend.

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Wracked with guilt, he leaves his life behind and treks to a monastery to try to live the remainder of his life in peace and where no one will ever fall victim to his unwanted powers again. His sister however carries on and starts using an experimental drug to treat this “gift” that their adoptive father had been developing. But it’s just not ready yet and the side-effects are dangerous. She takes it anyways, and while it harnesses her power, it also frees her from her inhibitions.

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She suddenly becomes very angry and power driven and decides that their gifts are further proof of superiority. She begins recruiting other people with these abilities to join her on her quest to take over. First, it’s her father’s company, but when she realizes that her abilities work through television signals, why not take over the whole world?

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The only person that can stop her is her brother, who it turns out is one of the most powerful of these “psychics.” He’ll go up against her and her legion of followers to ensure that their species can be left alone in peace and stop them from hurting anymore innocent people.

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If you’re an avid comic book reader like I am, this probably sounds very similar to some of the books you may have read in the past. Hell, doesn’t this sound essentially like a prequel X-MEN movie? Well believe it or not, I’m talking about SCANNERS III: THE TAKEOVER. That’s right. Not the first sequel to David Cronenberg’s sci-fi/horror classic, but the second sequel! (There’s 5 films in this series total, but I’ll get back to that.)

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Steve Parish plays Alex Monet, the brother “scanner” who turns out to be the Professor X of his kind. Beyond powerful, his time away at the monastery is what teaches him how to truly be one with his abilities and use them for good. His sister Helena Monet (played by gorgeous Polish actress Liliana Komorowska) starts the film as a sweet and innocent pacifist. But buried deep down in her consciousness is the months of torturous experiments against herself and her fellow “scanners” at the hands of Doctor Baumann, who enjoyed his tests just a little too much. Once she starts taking the highly volatile drug to sooth her headaches, it brings these harsh feelings to the surface and turns her into a “scanner” with a God complex. (Kind of like Magneto!)

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David Cronenberg’s SCANNERS arrived on the scene in 1981, just 3 short years after Brian DePalma’s epic psychic thriller THE FURY. It took the course of the entire film to fully put all the pieces together. A select group of women tried an experimental drug called ephemeral to help ease the pain of childbirth, but this drug is also what caused all those babies in utero to develop their scanner abilities. In the original, the most powerful and dangerous of the bunch is Revok (played to perfection by Michael Ironside in one of his most memorable onscreen roles). The government finds Cameron Vale and use him to track down Revok. So the first film is really one scanner versus another scanner.

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The 2nd film ups the stakes a bit. Its years later and the government is recruiting “scanners,” dangerous or otherwise to conduct experiments on them and have influence on the general public. When the new police chief is about to be named, scanner David Kellum is used to force their desired chief into the position of power. It gets pretty conspiracy heavy in terms of who is using who, but it’s a decent enough sequel to Cronenberg’s classic, this time helmed by Christian Duguay.

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Duguay returned for the 3rd SCANNERS film subtitled “THE TAKEOVER,” and I can’t explain why, but it’s my favorite of the series. Perhaps because in 1991 at the height of the VHS market and when the animated series of Marvel’s beloved X-MEN finally started hitting airwaves, SCANNERS III was the closest thing I was ever going to get to a proper X-MEN film. It’d take another 10 years before Marvel would produce their own and now it’s the franchise we all know and love. But back in 91? Unless it was a BATMAN movie, it was slim pickings for comic book movies, especially Marvel ones!

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SCANNERS III also plays like a pretty wacky comic book movie as is. You’ve got superpowered beings. You’ve got good versus evil, and it’s a brother and sister forced into their opposite positions. There’s some radical set pieces, like when a “scanner” tracks down Alex in Thailand with his father’s best friend and forces a group of street fighters to attack them. It’s one of the first moments where Alex unleashes the full capabilities of his powers.

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And while nothing will ever top the opening head explosion from the original SCANNERS, you can at least count on one or two noggins exploding per SCANNERS sequel! SCANNERS III has three notable ones. Helena gets her revenge on her experimenting Doctor Baumann and captures the head burst on a Polaroid camera while forcing him to say “cheese.” Then there’s one under water courtesy of Alex. And another one while spinning at record speed in a revolving building door. All fun and gore-tastic.

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After SCANNERS III, there were two more SCANNERS sequels: SCANNER COP followed by SCANNERS: THE SHOWDOWN (aka SCANNER COP 2). Christian Duguay did not return for these sequels, so only the 2nd and 3rd film are part of his resume, but he did marry lead actress Liliana Komorowska, so way to go, dude!

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When it comes to the SCANNERS franchise, I always recommend Part 3 because it’s the most thoroughly entertaining of the bunch. And it opens on a Christmas party! So, technically, it’s a Christmas movie for those of you constantly on the hunt for holiday themed movies. Scream Factory released it as a double feature with the 2nd film as a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack which you can find right here.

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