The home of cult movies and genre cinema: from grindhouse to schlock, sexploitation to blaxploitation, kung fu to samurai, manga to J-horror, monster movies, mondo, spaghetti westerns and space operas. With added Steven Seagal.
1991 saw the release of two belated direct-to-video sequels to David Cronenberg's Scanners, both helmed by the little-known Canadian director Christian Duguay. The first of these, Scanners II: The New Order, takes place some twenty years after the events of the first film. Country boy David (David Hewlett) moves to the city to attend veterinary college, only for the noisy and vibrant surroundings to trigger a disturbing upwelling of power within him. He, it transpires, is that rare thing, a functioning scanner – rare because most of his kind are either crazy (driven mad by their condition) or “dying drug addicts”, hooked on a narcotic called EPH-2.
Scanners (1981) is the penultimate movie of Cronenberg's glorious first period, which saw him working from his own highly original scripts and delivering a chilly, futuristic vision which owed more to the novels of J.G. Ballard than to any other filmmaker. Its protagonist is Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack), a half-crazed down and out who is recruited by Dr Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan) after mind-zapping a woman in a shopping mall. Ruth, a “psycho-pharmacist,” reveals that Vale is a “scanner”, a person with telekinetic abilities. There are others like him – indeed, Ruth has been running a research project into that very topic. Unfortunately, his test subjects are being systematically murdered by Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside), the leader of the “scanner underground.” Ruth (after first treating his new protégé with Ephemerol, a drug that “controls the flow of telepathy”, and getting him to hone his psychic skills against a yoga master) wants Vale to infiltrate the underground and stop Revok's “insane crusade.”
Brian Trenchard-Smith is the David Lean of Ozploitation movies. His trademark: cheap, trashy, madcap tales presented with the deep polish and perfect sheen that you usually associate with high end heritage cinema. Dead End Drive-In (1986) is an excellent example. In the near future, society is on the brink of collapse and hoodlums prowl the streets. Clean-living minivan driver Jimmy (Ralph Macchio lookalike Ned Manning) borrows his brother's immaculate '56 Chevy in order to take his girlfriend Carmen (Natalie McCurry) to a drive-in movie theatre (which, by the way, happens to be showing another Trenchard-Smith classic, Turkey Shoot). Unfortunately, while they're canoodling on the backseat, two of the car's wheels are stolen... by the police. They thus find themselves having to stay there overnight – then indefinitely, as Thompson (Peter Whitford), the drive-in owner, reveals that there is no way of communicating with the outside world or of leaving on foot. “You're here until the government decides what to do with you” – them and the other 191 assorted teddy boys, punks and skinheads who have been caught out in the same way. Doling out blankets and meal tickets which can be redeemed at the on-site diner, he encourages them to settle in and make the best of it.
Think French cinema and you think languorous love triangles set in Parisian cafes or summer cottages in Provence, all played out to a soundtrack of classical music or light jazz. Or at least that's how it used to be until films like this one came along to destroy that cosy self-image forever.
Just to put it out there: Re-Animator (1985) is one of the best horror flicks EVER, with a third act which flies into realms of Grand Guignol that no other movie has even dreamt of entering. From Beyond (1986) saw the same creative team attempting a follow-up, and, while it isn't quite as inspired as its predecessor, it's still blissfully gooey and lurid.