4. The Exploding Head in Scanners (1981)
Special Makeup artists: Chris Walas and Tom Schwartz
It wouldn’t be a proper list about cinematic makeup effects without the inclusion of at least one David Cronenberg film. The master of bodily harm and perverse mutations, Cronenberg has blessed gore fanatics with all kinds of wicked grotesqueries, from the titular beast in The Fly to James Woods sticking a gun into his creepy vagina chest in Videodrome. When pinning down the filmmaker’s nastiest handmade effects, however, there’s really no contest—Scanners has the prize locked down.
Scanners, written directly from Cronenberg’s own brilliantly twisted mind, presents a world in which people with strong telepathic abilities can kill others simply by using their minds. One “scanner” in particular, played by Michael Ironside, has gone rogue, and he decides to show his rebellious power by making a speaker’s head explode during a press conference.
First, the poor guy begins nervously shaking, glancing over at a deep-in-thought Ironside and knowing that he’s a wrap; and then, boom! His head detonates as if someone hid a stick of dynamite in his brain. Try dealing with a migraine without panicking after watching Scanners.