Bet you all thought I had forgotten about this series: Scanner Cop
It’s been a while since I’ve done this series. Not for any particular reason, but more because Lovefilm have been sending me excellent stuff, and I was a bit burnt out on lousy DTV sequels. Nevertheless, I did have it sitting on the PS3 hard drive, and with Mrs. Jarv out, I thought I’d watch it to catch up. Was this a good idea? Well, to be honest, I’m not sure. In a way I can see the logic of moving Scanners down this line, as there was an element of police work involved in the first two, even though the Scanner himself was not specifically Law Enforcement. Scanner Force, on the other hand, was just completely and utterly bugnuts, so any reference to the police or law enforcement went right out of the window (along with Santa). This time round, the series makes absolutely no bones about it- he’s a Scanner and also a cop. So, does it work and is the film any good?
Short answer? Yes to the first part, no to the second. However, I don’t think it fails because he’s openly police. There are myriad other reasons why this is a bit of a dud, even though it isn’t a complete misfire.
Scanner Cop, actually, opens with a bang and one of my favourite effects from the series to date (it certainly makes a pleasant change from the squeezing-a-poop-out-face that usually accompanies telepathic/ telekinetic antics. Sam and his father are stuck in a low rent section of town in a one room apartment. Sam’s father is off his Ephemerol (and has been for four days- this is important) and is noisily going out of his mind. Sam himself has just taken his last dose. It’s a good performance from someone who isn’t listed in the credits (annoyingly) as he veers towards some serious scenery chewing insanity. The highpoint of this is when he’s staring into the mirror and sees little mini-heads busting out of his forehead and screaming in delusional agony. The cops bust in and he’s murdered, but young Sam is adopted on the spot by a genial police officer Harrigan.
Cut to “the present day” and a woman is kidnapping people off the street with a magic aerosol full of some nerve paralysing gas that wears off. Why they insist on making this up is beyond me, does Chloroform no longer exist? She then takes the victim back to the mad doctor’s lair and he injects them with some magic green syringe (that faithful movie fall back) in order to brainwash them. Once suitably conditioned, they then proceed to go bugnuts at the sight of a police uniform and see zombies/ monsters/ giant insects/ Viet Cong (hilarious) and lay waste to any copper in the area. Patrolman Sam Staziak (Daniel Quinn) is asked by his father (now head of police, played by Richard Grove) to come off the Ephemerol and find some answers.
The long and the short of what follows is that Sam does his pooping face a lot, and eventually tracks down mad doctor Glock (Richard Lynch) who is a bit pissed off about the police busting up his sex cult and shooting him in the head (necessitating a titanium plate that isn’t at all a convenient way to make him partially immune to scanning or anything). His sidekick, Zena (Hilary Shephard) is a psychic of sorts, and eventually Sam manages to send her to hell (literally, they even stole the set from Hellraiser 2) and pop the titanium like a champagne cork out of the doctor’s head. Film ends.
Acting wise, this isn’t too bad. Lynch is on fine form as Glock, and Quinn is a bit bland as Sam, but he’s more the foil for the loopy antics around him. Grove is good as Harrigan, but the rest of the support veers towards the cardboard and rubbish- particularly Mark Rolston as Harrigan’s Lieutenant. The only really bad performance is Shepherd as Zena, who is meant to be mysterious, sultry and a bit crazy, but is actually about as sexually desirable as a bowl of tapioca and as menacing as harsh language.
Unfortunately, the problems lie in the writing. The plot for the most part is coherent and makes sense, and there are no serious holes or gaps that need explanation. Brilliantly, the film also assumes that we know about Scanners and Ephemerol, so it’s just briefly mentioned and not explained at all. I like this, actually, as it shows a bit of trust in the audience. However, the big problem of the film is that it’s so damned repetitive. There’s only so many times that you can listen to Darlanne Fluegel (playing Sam’s girlfriend/ convenient doctor Joan Alden) go on and fucking on at him about taking his Ephemerol, while he whines about how he’s got to see it through to the end. This happens several times, and it quickly becomes tiresome and aggravating- he’s blatantly not going to take it, so shut the fuck up. Then there’s the Hell sequence itself. This really makes no sense whatsoever, and I presume is only in the film so that they could squeeze in the obligatory head explosion. It’s particularly galling actually, because the corridor to hell resembles the mausoleum in Phantasm, and the rest of it looks exactly like Hellraiser 2. Cannibalised sets were clearly the order of the day here.
Nevertheless, there are two real problems with all the Scanners sequels that only Scanner Force gets around (and that’s only because it’s completely mental). The first is that they all lack a villain with the scope and sheer lunacy in his plans of Ironside. These films all need more Ironside, and that’s just a fact. Not that most films wouldn’t benefit from some Darth Ironside, because they would, but the lack of a strong loopy villain in the Scanners series is exponentially worse due to the fact that the lead is always so fucking bland. The second problem, and only Scanner Force got round this and even then only by inventing Scan-fu, is that Scanning and Scan battles are intrinsically boring: a guy stands there making sex faces while his target thrashes around for a while. Eventually big purple veins will start to appear before the signature head pop. Scanner Cop is exasperating as at least when there’s another actor involved the Scanning does have some focus, but here Sam scans fucking machines on more than one occasion- which is beyond boring.
Overall, this isn’t the worst film of the series, but it’s not a particularly noteworthy entry. It will pass the time in a fairly unobtrusive way, but would massively have benefitted from boob and more variety, and isn’t really worth the bother of looking up. The problem is that it’s just too repetitive and the evil plan is so small scale that I struggled to maintain interest. The Hell sequence is the standout bit of lunacy in the film, but this suffers from being tonally jarring and quite shoddy. I can’t say I recommend this, as I don’t, but it certainly isn’t an awful effort by any stretch of the imagination. For being below par but not abysmal, I give Scanner Cop 1 DO THE CUNT IRONSIDE out of 4.
I’ve only got Scanner Cop 2: The Showdown to go in this series now, and can’t find it, but I do promise that I will complete this trawl through Thalidomide dreams.
Until next time,