October 23, 2014

31 Days of Creepy Scenes, #9: The Exploding Head

They've given us nightmares, given us chills, made us cringe, made us  laugh, made us gag, and made us stare at the screen in awe: these are  the scenes that pop into our minds when we think of great Horror Films, and we love them all.

*We recommend that if you've never seen these scenes before, that you experience them for the first time unspoiled in the movies that they come from, if you can. With that in mind, we'll try to be as spoiler-free as possible while discussing them; try, being the key word here.

"The first time I ever saw an exploding head..." Now that's a phrase that you don't hear everyday, and that's probably a good thing. For we horror fans though, that very phrase is not only appropriate, but it's also very important; because for most of us, the first time that we ever saw an exploding head was in the 1981 David Cronenberg classic, Scanners.

Cronenberg was in top form in the early 80's, his unique brand of "Body Horror" films just beginning to take hold, and propel him into the pantheon of genre greats. While his other movies may have been more accessible to general audiences (The Dead Zone and The Fly, for instance), it was his more experimental and "out there" offerings like The Brood, Videodrome, and Dead Ringers, that made many regard him as some sort of a subversive genius.

With Scanners, Cronenberg told the story of international espionage, centered around a group of telepaths who could control people's thoughts, and inflict pain on others, using only the power of their minds. In the case of Darryl Revok, the most evil Scanner of them all, they can even make heads explode during seemingly innocuous business seminars.

We can thank the late, great make-up artist Dick Smith (and his crew) for that brilliant, exploding head gag. The man was responsible for some of the best make-up and special effects of all time (The Godfather, The Exorcist), and we'll probably never see his like again. Both he and his work were classics.

The story of how he and his crew pulled off the effect, is almost as great as the gag itself:

Scanners may be David Cronenberg's finest movie; amidst the exploding heads and melting bodies, it has an almost classy feel about it, relying more on the psychological aspects of Horror than the visceral. It may not necessarily be an ideal film to add to your October horror movie marathons, but it certainly is one worth seeing.

After all, it's got an exploding head.


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