David Cronenberg’s original Scanners was a surprise smash hit in the US, and really cemented the Canadian director as a force to be reckoned with. Cronenberg had no interest in doing a sequel—he was at one point attached to the sequel to Basic Instinct, and was extremely close to doing a sequel to Eastern Promises, but Focus Features pulled out of that project pretty far into the process. However, Pierre David was the original producer for Scanners, along with a few other early Cronenberg films (including Videodrome, his first out-and-out masterpiece), and kind of owned the rights. And so David made two sequels to Scanners in 1991, back to back. Cronenberg wasn’t hugely happy about itm but eventually money changed hands so everything was ok.
What happened next was that David wanted to try his hand at directing, and decided to do yet another Scanners film, but this time shaking it up by making it a police procedural: and so the idea of Scanner Cop was born! The direct-to-video market was absolutely booming, and only Scanners II: The New Order had gotten any kind of theatrical release, so naturally it would be a direct-to-video film. The usual trip to Cannes to sell international video rights paid for another pair of films without much hassle.
The two films, Scanner Cop and Scanner Cop II: The Showdown, are the only films in the Scanner series to have a continuous storyline. Daniel Quinn of Wild at Heart plays cop Sam Staziak, who as the title suggests, is a scanner. Unlike in the original film Scanners, here scanners are a normal part of society, very much like the aliens in Alien Nation. The plots of both films are pretty similar: in the first, a mad scientist played by Richard Lynch—who is great—is bumping off cops in mysterious ways, and in the second film a crazed scanner is going on a complete rampage.
It’s impressive just how good the films are, because by all rights they should be really lousy. Of course, they aren’t as good Cronenberg’s film, and that’s for sure. The special effects from John Carl Buechler in Scanner Cop II: The Showdown are especially impressive, although the multiple heads spurting out near the beginning of the first film are not too shabby either. The second film might have the edge, because ROBERT FUCKIN’ FORSTER plays the head of police, and even in this pretty garbage role he brings humanity and realism to it. When people are looking back on the greatest screen actors 100 years from now, Robert Forster will be in the conversation on the basis of Jackie Brown alone, never mind his other 188 credits. When he popped up here I was just so hopeful, and knew that no matter how bad this film could get, at least it has ROBERT FUCKIN’ FORSTER.
The Scanner Cop films are well worth your time, probably more so than the official Scanners sequels. They work both as Scanners sequels and as decent little cop thrillers. They are also pretty well-shot, including good L.A. photography. They don’t have the brains behind Cronenberg’s original film, but hopefully you will get a kick out of these like I did.
The release comes in a very snazzy boxset, and both films have slipcovers. The films are available on both Blu-Ray and UHD and are in all-region format. There is a nice, lengthy documentary on the Scanner Cop films, which of course all covers some of the other Scanners films and is full of good interviews with the cast, crew and You’re Next screenwriter Simon Barrett. The first film is packaged with a commentary and a vintage promotion video, whilst the second also has a trailer.