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Default Scanners II: The New Order (Anchor Bay UK)



Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: October 31, 2007

Released by: Anchor Bay UK
Release date: 07/18/2005
MSRP: $25.95
Region 0, PAL
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes



inline ImageWhile the name David Cronenberg has become synonymous with horror, all his films have all been one-offs – self-contained trips into psychosomatic trauma that never beg for follow-up. Carpenter has the Halloweens, Craven the Elm Streets, but could you imagine a Theaterdrome or a Naked Dinner? Thanks to naïve decisions early in his career though, Cronenberg made it possible for Scanners to be franchised without any royalties after he signed over the rights to a Canadian producer. It took ten years, but once Scanners II hit, there was a New Order of films, with Scanners III to follow as well as spin-off series, Scanner Cop. Cronenberg had nothing to do with these, but another prominent Canadian director, Christian Duguay, did. He’s revved up the action this time around for Scanners II: The New Order, but is that necessarily a good thing?


The Story

inline ImageProof that this isn’t the high brow fare Cronenbergians would expect, the film begins in an arcade with a loose scanner doing what he does best. He tries to blend in, but the migraines are too much. He can hear everything, the clinging of the pinball paddles, the beeping from the video games and even the thoughts that people around him are speaking. He’s telekinetic, due to birth defects from an experimental drug named Ephemeral that was prescribed to pregnant women in the sixties. More than just being able to hear the thoughts of others though, he can also use his mind physically. He drops a quarter into a shooter game, and within seconds he’s controlling the gun through mere sight, ranking up one hell of a high score. His powers get too strong though, and he ends up causing a huge scene of body flinging before he is finally apprehended.

inline ImageThe scanner is brought into the possession of a one Dr. Morse. It turns out Dr. Morse (as in “code”, one of the more clever interpretations of Cronenberg nomenclature) is running an underground scanners study facility, trying to understand the components of the brain that allow for such powers. In order to keep his victims contained he sedates them on drugs, but the drugs are addictive and degrade the scanners to near vegetative levels. He wants “good” scanners, and so too does Commander John Forrester (Yvan Ponton), who is conspiring to employ all scanners as police officers to stop crime and help win him public favor. The scanner at the arcades was too unkempt, but luckily there is med student David Kellum (David Hewlett).

inline ImageDavid is mild-mannered and has been using his powers for good. Yes, he’s even cured a dying puppy. Forrester immediately takes him under his wing, but once he sees what he can do with David, his megalomania takes in. He wants to run for mayor, and David is wedged so far into his scheme that he cannot escape alone. He connects with his Canadian sister, Julie Vale (Deborah Raffin), daughter of Cameron and Kim from the first film. Together they must fight against Forrester’s proposed New Order, but it won’t be easy. They’ll have to put their minds together if they want to come out alive.

inline ImageThere’s a trade-off that you have to accept from the first scene in the arcade: instead of Cronenbergian psychology there will be fast action. If you can deal with that, then Scanners II: The New Order is a great ride. In a way it is the perfect sequel, allowing Cronenberg’s exposition and dramatic elements from the first film to serve as the backing for this, allowing Duguay to deliver non-stop thrills from the premise. And it’s a great premise. The idea of byproducts of our liberal sixties drug experimentation coming back to haunt society is novel, but rooting their powers in the mind makes for a nice change compared to your typical knife-wielding slasher. Elevating their threat to a national scale in Scanners II makes the subject matter all the more exciting, too.

inline ImageChirstian Duguay started off as a steadicam operator, and understanding the versatility a roaming camera can provide, he helps inject a real energy into the film above all the extra action scenes. The camera is always moving, which is a good thing considering the most of the action between scanners is internal. His roaming camera (which he operates himself, always) helps visualize the movements of thoughts in the brain, going through scenes and sequences like synapses in the mind.

inline ImageIn addition to Duguay’s wonderfully kinetic style, there are a few other notables that help push Scanners II into the upper echelons of horror sequels. The effects work is again standout. They knew going into this that people would be holding the film up to the cranial explosion from the first, so the deliver that here multiple times over and with results just as gory and convincing. The fact that it happens often is just another bonus, and one that keeps the pace of the film pulsing throughout.

inline ImageFans of another Canadian classic, PIN, will also take to the humanity that film’s star, David Hewlett, lends to his character. If there was one thing that could be held against the original it was that Stephen Lack’s lead performance was, well, lacking. Here though, Hewlett makes a great sympathetic lead, and one with piercing eyes that can speak even when his mouth isn’t (and that’s for the majority of the film). That Christian Duguay was able to get such a convincing performance when he spent all his time behind the camera is further testament to his craft. Scanners II: The New Order is all-around great entertainment, proof that in the right hands any sequel, remake or spin-off can resonate quality. It just depends on the mind behind it.


Image Quality

inline ImageScanners II looks great in this new, anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer. Visually, it’s a very kinetic film, and thankfully there’s no artifacting present (a common downfall of birthrate intensive films like this). The image is very clean, and while there are a little more specs and dirt than that featured on Scanners, it’s still pretty exemplary. As a low budget Canadian sequel, it certainly does not look it, both from Duguay’s visuals and the fine transfer allotted to the film here. The images are sharp, and while the colors tend to be a bit dull at times, it’s still overall a great picture.

Sound

Like the other two Scanners released from Anchor Bay, this is fitted with both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 tracks. The tracks are solid, this one getting a lot more workout than the original, in part because there is just more there audibly than Cronenberg’s sparse original. This one relies on the visceral, and right from the opening arcade face-off, the sound comes booming from all corners. For a low budget film, this mix packs quite a punch, and like what Anchor Bay UK did with their Phantasm set, they’ve given up some worthy 5.1 remixes here too.

Supplemental Material

inline ImageUnfortunately “The Directors” series never did a retrospective on Christian Duguay, so what we are left with here is another Alan Jones hosted featurette and all the other small tidings. Jones is informative here like he is on the other Scanners discs. Although much of his knowledge is certainly available on the IMDb, it’s always fun to hear it again by someone with conviction. He has a few unique tidbits along the way too though, like how Cronenberg received no monetary compensation for the Scanners sequels because of ill advised licensing he allowed in the early eighties. The disc is rounded out with trailers for all three films, biographies and film notes. It would have been nice to have heard from Christian Duguay, but still, at least Anchor Bay did something.


Final Thoughts

Scanners II: The New Order is a stellar follow-up to Cronenberg’s classic original, replacing his calculated psychology with kinetic action and effects. It’s not the deepest film, but still, Christian Duguay expands on the Scanners mythos with high style. Anchor Bay UK has done well with this disc, affording the film a clean picture and blistering DTS. The short featurette is a nice companion too. It’s easy to bash the idea of a remake or sequel, but when it’s done right, like it is here, it’s pretty tough to complain. Whether alone or in the trilogy box set (both available from Xploited Cinema), it’s definitely worth a barcode scan.

Rating

Movie - A-
Image Quality - B+
Sound - A-
Supplements - B-


Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour and 40 minutes
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1
  • English DTS 5.1
  • English stereo
  • English closed captions

Supplements
  • "Inside Scan: The New Order" interview with historian Alan Jones
  • Theatrical trailers
  • Biographies
  • Film notes

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