Some films need a long-lasting franchise to tell a complete story. Some get direct-to-video sequels whether the original films deserve one or not. Starting as a direct sequel to the original, Scanner Cop packs up from Cronenberg’s visceral sci-fi classic and runs towards the police procedural serial killer genre with gleefully gory results. Scanner Cop II is light on story or character but the parade of gore and gnarly special effects make a worthwhile watch. Vinegar Syndrome unleashes these rental shop classics to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in an elaborate 2-film 4-disc set with excellent fully restored HDR10 transfers, solid audio, and packed with some respectable bonus features. Don’t let your head explode, grab this while you can - Highly Recommended
Note: This release is temporarily unavailable from Vinegar Syndrome during their Partner Program Sale - as soon as its available we'll include purchase links
The son of a scanner, Sam Staziazk (Daniel Quinn) watched his father die after going off his meds. Raised by the cop that saved him (Richard Grove), Sam has grown into a respectable rookie police officer - but also a scanner. Without his meds his powers are uncontrolled - and his mind unfiltered from the psychic noise around him. When cops start being murdered by random brainwashed upstanding citizens, Sam is forced to abandon his meds and risk his sanity to stop a madman (Richard Lynch) bent on revenge. 4/5
Scanner Cop II (aka Scanners: The Showdown aka Scanner Cop II: Volkner’s Revenge)
After his exploits saving the police force, Sam is now on a new form of his meds that allows him to use his powers but trim out the psychic noise. An asset to his Captain (Robert Forster), Sam enjoys a relatively peaceful life trying to find his mother. But the scanner Karl Volkner (Patrick Kilpatrick) is killing off other scanners becoming more powerful with every execution. Even a formidable talented scanner like Sam may not be strong enough to stop Volkner’s reign of terror. 3/5
Of all the movies in David Cronenberg’s catalog, Scanners feels like the strangest film to spawn a franchise. The Fly makes sense. Hell, I’d even like to see more adventures of Max Renn and the new flesh from Videodrome - but Scanners felt finished. The first two direct to video sequels (available here) were a mess. Unconnected to the first film let alone each other, they went in weird directions trying to justify their reason for existing beyond some snazzy visual effects work. Scanners II had its moments but Scanners III is flat, boring, and nearly unwatchable.
Then came Scanner Cop. In a smart move, Director Pierre David and writer George Saunders jettisoned the useless first two sequels. Blazing their own path, they took the franchise into the popular police procedural and serial killer genres with solid results. With the structure of a murder mystery, we have a reason for our hero Sam to reluctantly start using his powers. It becomes a struggle to hold onto his sanity as he tries to figure out who the madman is why they’re programming people to kill cops. While the script is smarter than those first sequels, it doesn’t shirk the gore quota delivering some pretty gnarly effects for a low-budget production.
Scanner Cop II was made less than a year later but aside from our lead actor Daniel Quinn, none of the creative team returned. While we pick up Robert Forster, we lose the little bits of character depth that made the last film actually work. The idea of Patrick Kilpatrick’s scanner becoming more powerful with every kill is interesting - but that’s Highlander and all of the terrible sequels that franchise spawned. Instead of something fresh and new, we get a limp story to hang onto while a parade of fantastic gore effects splatters our screens. If that’s all you’re here for, then you’re in for a treat. Keep an eye out for the king of Friday the 13th Jason actors Kane Hodder early on in a brief but gnarly appearance. If you’re here for a satisfying sequel to the pretty decent third sequel of a bizarre franchise, Scanner Cop II might give you a headache. It’s entertaining enough to pass the time.
The fun part of the Scanners franchise was going to the video store and seeing a new movie randomly appear on the shelf. There wasn't the internet - you didn't know these things were coming. They'd just show up. My Dad and I loved the first film so we’d pick up each installment not expecting much of anything from them beyond some blood and guts. Not helping things each film was often reissued under a different name - we’d accidentally rent Scanners III several times thinking it was a new movie. It became a game of "how bad can it be?" But then came Scanner Cop and things turned for the better. They're not the most amazing films ever made but they're a lot of fun if you're in the right mood.
With rumors of another attempt to remake Scanners and/or create a TV series out of the IP, it was fun to check back in with the franchise-within-a-franchise Scanner Cop. I'd personally enjoy a return to this part of the franchise instead of a remake, but sadly Daniel Quinn passed away and it wouldn't be the same without him. Because this film never made it to DVD in the U.S. officially (you could pick it up in Canada), I hadn’t seen these films since the heyday of VHS and late-night cable binges. I was glad to see that for the most part, they hold up. I’m now more critical of Scanner Cop II than I used to be, but that first film is still pretty damn good! If you love great gore effects and watching guys look like they just ate a bad burrito before some heads explode, you’ve got a couple of genuine made-for-video classics to enjoy.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Masters of the obscure, Vinegar Syndrome delivers Scanner Cop and Scanner Cop II to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in a beautifully elaborate 2-film, 4-disc set. Each film gets its own 4K UHD disc and 1080p Blu-ray disc housed in its own case with slipcover and reversible insert art. Both films are held together in a hard stock cardboard book slip. Each disc opens to its own respective main menus with traditional navigation options.
Vinegar Syndrome has always delivered pretty damn impressive work for their releases and Scanner Cop 1&2 is no exception. I haven’t seen either of these films in the better side of 25 years and they look practically brand new with fresh restorations and native 4K HDR10 transfers.
Scanner Cop in my book is the better of the two but only slightly (more on that in a bit). Of the visual aesthetic, this first film has more going for it. The opening sequence with Sam’s father, the mental hospital, the nightmare sequence in hell - there are several well-staged sequences that look amazing in 4K. From the outset, details are beautifully captured allowing for full appreciation of facial features, costuming, and production design. When the makeup effects come into play, they’re given plenty of room to shine. A nice natural layer of grain ensures a pleasing film-like presentation. A couple of sequences of optical zooms crop up and the grain structure thickens and becomes noisier but those are brief moments and hardly amount to a distraction. 4.5/5
Scanner Cop II is almost its predecessor’s equal. Part of what holds this one back is the overall visual presentation can be pretty flat looking. Lighting, staging, some of the sets are just not very interesting to look at diminishing the overall wow factor of the added resolution. A lot of dark shadows add mood, but also hide they're not really using interesting locations. Facial features and costuming look great - right down to the smallest stitch everything is on display. Giving this film a bump, the gore effects are next-level gnarly and the closeup shots give you plenty of time to soak in the viscera. The one slight kick that I’m knocking back this one for is some occasional very slight frame jidder. It’s not a severe issue and you may not even notice it but once I saw it I couldn’t stop seeing it when it popped up. 4.25/5
Both films enjoy a terrific HDR10 application that does exactly what it’s supposed to. Colors are rich and vibrant with some impressive primaries. The early 90s fashions and stylings let those colors stretch a bit. Black levels are deep and inky with a nice sense of three-dimensional depth. Whites are equally well-balanced allowing for crisp bright whites without unsightly blooming. Elements for both films are in great shape, only some occasional very slight speckling ever pops up around optical effects shots but that’s the worst of it.
Vinegar Syndrom is yet another boutique label that just keeps knocking it out of the park with their 4K UHD Blu-ray releases. For a pair of 90s VHS rental favorites, this is far and away better than I’d expected.
Both Scanner Cop and Scanner Cop II pop your eardrums with strong and present DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio mixes. Like the video transfers, the audio is another area where Vinegar Syndrome treats these VHS classics with a lot of care and TLC. Again I haven’t seen these movies in the better side of 25 years but they sound fantastic. Fidelity is terrific across the board. Dialog, sound effects, atmospherics, scoring are all distinctly cast and occupy a rich soundscape. Dialog is clean and clear and never at odds with any other audio element. Scoring for both films is impactful and lends to the intensity of each film’s major set pieces.
Where I will give Scanner Cop II the edge is the simple fact that there’s more focus on the gore and special effects so the sound design focuses on them in a much more impactful way. Scanner Cop had plenty of squishy bits to it, but the sequel spends a lot of time watching people boil alive or blow up slowly or have an ear melt off and the foley artists must've had a lot of fun in the recording booth. The sound design gets to be a little more robust and impactful in that respect. Both films have excellent audio, but Scanner Cop II is much more active and engaging.
Scanner Cop - 4.5/5
Scanner Cop II - 4.75/5
In another instance of a boutique label outdoing the majors, Vinegar Syndrome has crafted a nice little assortment of bonus features for fans. It may not be a huge number of extras but it's about quality over quantity in this case. Each film gets a great commentary track, Scanner Cop enjoys a very entertaining jaunt with the team at We Hate Movies Podcast. Scanner Cop II gets a very informative track with director Steve Barnett. Split between both films is the extended making-of documentary Outside the Law: The Scanner Cop Revolution featuring a variable who’s who of folks involved with the making of both films. Combined it’s not a very long feature, but it’s thorough and informative. The audio commentaries are found on both the UHD disc and 1080p Blu-ray disc. The rest of the bonus features are only on the 1080p Blu-ray disc.
Scanner Cop II
The Prophecy, Tremors, Hellraiser, Children of the Corn - there are numerous direct-to-video franchises out there of varying quality. Most got worse with each installment, but somehow Scanners bucked the trend and got better when Scanner Cop and Scanner Cop II hit rental shelves. This isn’t to say these sequels are better than the Cronenberg original - they’re just very entertaining and easily outpace their previous direct-to-video siblings.
Vinegar Syndrome upgrades these video store cult classics to 4K UHD Blu-ray in an elaborate 2-Film 4-Disc set. Each film gets an excellent native 4K transfer with HDR10 and strong and impressive audio mixes to match. Capped off with some solid bonus features and this 20th century rental shop favorite upgrades to the 21st century home library with style. If you’re a fan - don’t let your head explode missing this set! Highly Recommended