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A powerful telepath (a.k.a. "scanner") finds himself caught in the middle of a war between a sinister weapons firm and a scanner renegade, in David Cronenberg's slick (and memorably gory) sci-fi thriller.
Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) is one of the 237 "scanners" in the world: people born with powerful telepathic and telekinetic abilities, who are able to hear thoughts, move objects, and even kill with their minds. Living as a derelict in order to hide his gift, Vale is discovered and abducted by the security firm ConSec, which wants to turn the scanners into human weapons. When renegade scanner Daryl Revok (Michael Ironside) declares war on the firm — announcing himself to the world by making the head of the chief ConSec scanner explode on live television — and recruits his own underground scanner army, Vale finds himself caught between two equally nefarious forces. Cronenberg's most commercially successful film up to that time, Scanners also saw the emergence of a more politicized element in his work. While the psycho-biological horrors in his previous films had been unleashed by isolated, self-conscious elites, in Scanners big business and the military-industrial establishment exploit those whose special gifts have marginalized them; Cronenberg would return to this culture-war theme in such films as Videodrome, The Dead Zone and eXistenZ.