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Scanners III - The Takeover

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Release Date: 
Anchor Bay UK
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Directed by: 
Christian Duguay
Liliana Komorowska
Steve Parrish
Colin Fox
Harry Hill
Bottom Line: 

 Christian Duguay's second sequel to David Cronenberg's austere psychic action flick, "Scanners", kicks off with a pre-credit sequence in which a Christmas party in Montreal, Canada ends rather ignominiously when a light-hearted demonstration of scanner prowess -- initiated to convince two skeptical party guests -- results in young scanner Alex (Steve Parrish) accidentally blowing his best pal out of the fifth floor of an apartment block and onto the sidewalk below! As the Jingle Bell-esque title music strikes up, the viewer is, by now, aware that any negligible attempt by the first sequel ("Scanners 2: The New Order") to do justice to the spirit and mythos of the Cronenberg original has most certainly been abandoned with this crass effort! "Scanners 3: The Takeover" is utterly shameless in its schlocky exploitation intent: the darkly forbidding atmospherics that surrounded the gory set-pieces of the Cronenberg film are replaced here with a ridiculously campy tone; and while, when it makes its inevitable appearance, the bloody head explosion special effect (by now ubiquitous for a film with the word "Scanner" in its title) is just as spectacular and gory as the one featured in the first film -- the horror content is otherwise diminished in favour of a pot pourri of stunt scenes, explosions, martial arts sequences, and over-the-top comic performances from an unknown cast who've found themselves saddled with a dull-witted script of little originality or coherence. Allow yourself to get past the unavoidable fact that Duguay is happily stomping all over the franchise's source material though, and this ludicrous "straight-to-video-and-proud-of-it" flick is, actually, curiously entertaining in that increasingly familiar "guilty pleasure" sort of way!
After the unfortunate incident at the party, Alex goes to live in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand (as you do!) in order to "find himself" and, presumably, learn to control those pesky scanner powers a little better in order to avoid killing all his friends! It also gave Duguay and the crew a chance to decamp abroad for a two week sojourn in Thailand, which looks very nice in the location footage included here! In fact, Duguay employs a curiously "arty" style with this film -- which encompasses lots of extreme camera angles, the use of wide-angle lenses and quasi Argento-esque roving camera moves -- in marked contrast to the rather pedestrian appearance of the previous sequel ... and oddly out of place given this flick's "exploitation" content! A voice-over from Alex gives us the necessary background on the main characters: Alex and his sister, Helena (who was also at the fateful Party) were born scanners -- inheriting their psychic gifts from their mother, who was one of those experimented on with the pregnancy drug Ephemerol in the 1940s. As misunderstood teenagers, they found themselves confined to the Baumann Institute where they were forced to take part in painful experiments by the sadistic Dr. Baumann (played by Harry Hill -- not the large-collared British comedian, of course!), but were eventually rescued and adopted by kindly pharmaceutical manufacturer, Dr. Elton Monet (Colin Fox).
The action fast winds to two years later. Alex is still missing in Thailand, while Helena (Liliana Komorowska) has risen through the ranks of her stepfather's pharmaceutical company which is currently being lined-up for takeover by smarmy "Takeover King" Mark Dragon (Peter Wright). Helena still suffers from the side-effects of her scanner affliction: intense migraines and a cacophony of internal voices in her head whenever she is in a large crowd. In the original film, Ephemerol could be used by scanners to mitigate these effects, but this idea seems to have been dropped in both sequels. Dr. Baumann's experiments came to naught, but now Dr. Elton has finally developed a drug which looks like it could actually work. He tells Helena of the untested prototype he has had made, and conveniently leaves a suitcase full of the stuff in the house! In the throes of suffering a particularly bad migraine attack, Helena takes the drug out of desperation -- which is administered in controlled doses by a computerised tab attached to the back of the neck. The drug works, and Helena is free of all scanner side-effects; unfortunately, the drug also has a few side-effects of its own (of course!) and turns Helena from a sweet natured young lady into a scheming psychopathic killer who will do anything for world domination! First of all, she takes revenge on Dr. Baumann; then she uses her stepfather's drug to turn his scanner patients at the Baumann Institute into an army of evil drones devoted to making the "normals" -- who have persecuted and ostracised them throughout their lives -- pay!
The film becomes a camped-up Jekyll & Hyde scenario then; Polish actress Liliana Komorowska does a good job at identifying the film's lack of seriousness and tailors her performance accordingly. Dressed in a variety of outrageous fashions, she hams her way through the rest of the film like a deranged Alexis Carrington from Dynasty, and throws herself wholeheartedly into portraying her character's twisted psyche. Helena sets about gaining control of her stepfather's company in order to use it to manufacture the test drug; this involves killing her stepfather (drowned in a sexy [and rather incestuous] Jacuzzi scene that requires the gorgeous Koworowska to display a fair amount of bare flesh) and also Mark Dragon, the Takeover King (also drowned -- this time in his own swimming pool). Next on the hit list is her own brother Alex, since he is second in line to inherit their father's Company. Helena dispatches a scanner henchman from the Baumann Institute to seek and destroy Alex, who is still bumming around in that Thailand monastery (even the stoic monks seem to be fed-up with him!) This gives us an entertaining little section of the film full of outrageous kickboxing/scanner antics which are completely OTT! Having survived this attempt on his life, a confused Alex returns to Canada to find out what exactly is going on and to confront his twisted sister. Lots of crazy action sequences ensue as Helena's scanner goons repeatedly try to finish Alex off once and for all -- until a final confrontation between good and evil takes place in a television studio where Helena is broadcasting a scanner signal out to Montreal in order to subjugate the population. (Apart from those who are watching a different channel, presumably!)
This big psychic slap down at the end of the film is one of those elements -- like exploding heads and bursting veins -- that every scanner film has to include, off course. Another appears to be the casting of an uncharismatic lead actor; the Scanners franchise could be viewed as a lifeline for dull male leads with no screen presence, since all three films feature boring and forgettable actors! Steve Parish somnambulates through the entire film and makes little impression with his vacant stare. Things only come to life for the actor in that final confrontation with his screen sister, when both get to pull hilariously over-exaggerated facial expressions as they pound each others' bodies with invisible psychic punches! This ridiculous film does feature a fair number of memorable sequences as it trundles along in its predictable fashion though: particular favourites include a seduction scene where Helena ravishes a low-ranking executive at the pharmaceutical company while broadcasting a scanner signal that makes a chat show host and his female guest, who can be seen on the TV in the background, repeat the saucy actions of Helena and her lover on air! Another features a curious foreshadowing of the cursed videotape idea of "The Ring" where Helena leaves a scanner signal imprinted on a video cassette that causes the viewer to fall under her psychic influence.
Anchor Bay UK's release of "Scanners 3: The Takeover" gives us another nice anamorphic transfer that features only a few grainy scenes here and there but is otherwise very nice. Once again, we get a fairly good 2.0 Stereo audio track and the standard AB UK fake 5.1 surround with DTS option. The Extras feature the scanners trailer selection; film notes; cast & crew biographies and the third installment of the Alan Jones hosted series of "Inside Scan" featurettes in which the horror journalist gives a brief (five minute) review of the film. The film notes describe "Scanners 3" as having more in common with Seventies European exploitation films than the world of David Cronenberg and, like many of those films, it is probably best viewed with a slightly ironic detachment for maximum enjoyment.
The film is available as either an individual disc or as part of a three disc boxed set that also features David Cronenberg's original "Scanners" and Christian Duguay's first sequel "Scanners 2: The New Order". 

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