Now if you haven’t seen Scanners, well, I suppose you could settle for some Orville Redenbacher or Pop Secret. But if you’ve enjoyed the sci-fi/horror deliciousness of David Cronenberg’s cranial-exploding masterpiece, you understand—only JiffyPop will do.
Scanners answers one of the questions comic book geeks have been asking for the past 50 years: what would Professor X be like if he were evil? And though the Prof doesn’t appear in the film, there’s a handful of telepaths—or Scanners, as they’re called—who answer that question. And they’ll blow your mind. Literally. And one will set you on fire. And one will turn you into a gelatinous vegetable. And one—well, he’s not really all that deadly, but he’s a peach of an artist. Therefore, if you watch Scanners, you are automatically more cultured.
While watching a dude’s head explode.
Orville’s got nothing for that.
Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that there’s not a telepath combing through your brain to find out all you know—or to detonate your cerebellum.
And Lord help the rest of us if you’re the telepath and you’re the paranoid one.
Back in 1981, David Cronenberg, the master of surreal horror, showed us just how cool it could be to read someone’s mind—and how dangerous it could be if those powers were used for evil. And he made you wonder who was watching you…and who was watching them.
His sci-fi horrorshow, Scanners, opens with one of the most memorable scenes in horror and continue to pulse for another eighty minutes with Blade Runner-like cat and mouse action, replacing killer robots with psychic assassins.
In Cronenberg’s world, there are over 200 known telepaths (Scanners, as they are called) who have been relatively harmless…until a particularly nasty one named Darryl Revok makes his presence known. Revok, who’d intentionally been flying under the radar to organize his own Scanner army, flexes his mental muscle during a demonstration at ConSec, a private security firm that has been keeping a secretive eye on the mind-readers. Revok , who was thought to be the “normal” during the demo, makes another Scanner lose his head (literally). Revok is captured by ConSec agents, but quickly uses his powers to kill his captors and escape.
ConSec scientist, Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan), recruits another Scanner named Cameron Vale (Steven Lack) to go after Revok. Vale, who had been living derelict on the streets due to his inability to shut off the voices in his head, teams with a psychic hit squad to hunt Revok. But hunting the most powerful psychic on Earth isn’t easy, they quickly learn—especially when he’s already got ConSec’s security chief working for him, telling him their every move before they make it.
Who do you trust when everyone can warp not only the truth, but the very way you think? If you have the power to read another’s thoughts or to influence them without their consent (or the ability to say no), do you have the right? And (big twist ending spoiler alert) what happens when everything you thought you knew about where you came from is a lie?
Scanners challenges us to wrestle with that dilemma through a brilliant sci-fi allegory (which sci-fi can do really well when properly utilized). And from a theological standpoint, it makes us consider the roots of deception and our response—or, perhaps, our complicity.
Satan masquerades as “an angel of light,” according to Paul in 2 Corinthians 11: 14. He goes on in verse 15 to say that “it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.”
The best way to combat deception is education. When we are at war with the Author of Lies (and his earthly minions), we must retaliate with the truth of scripture. When Satan pounced on Jesus in the desert, twisting scripture, Jesus defended himself by relying on scripture and its true meaning. While Satan tries to convince Jesus to jump from the high temple by reminding him that angels would prevent him from “dashing his foot upon a stone,” Jesus quotes Deuteronomy, warning “do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
When we’re challenged—whether it be with “facts” or “opinions”— it’s up to us to use a little common sense to weigh their validity. But above and beyond our gut, we need to fall back on the teachings of Christ and the lessons from the heroes found in the Word.
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples,” Jesus tells us. “ Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8: 31-32)
Nothing to worry about.