With a plot full of holes, a fun script, some decent special effects and great performances from the leads, Trancers is a cult favourite and b-movie gold.
Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) is a trooper in the 23rd century. He’s the grizzled, grumpy type and has probably been that way ever since big bad Whistler (Michael Stefani) killed his wife some time ago. Whistler has an army of followers, known as trancers, and Jack has busied himself for some time with finding them all and dealing with them. The bad news for everyone is that Whistler, presumed dead, has found a way to go back in time and is now busying himself with the task of eradicating the ancestors of his main enemies so that they no longer exist. Jack is sent back to track him down and finds himself in the body of his own ancestor, Phil, beside the very attractive Leena (Helen Hunt). Without appearing like a lunatic, Jack/Phil needs to convince Leena of his story and enlist her help in tracking down Whistler and his new group of trancers in 1985.
Written by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo, and directed by Charles Band (a director well-known to fans of b-movies), Trancers overcomes many failings to become something highly enjoyable and damn entertaining.
This is due in no small part to the performances of the leads. Tim Thomerson is fantastic, believably gruff and yet also very likeable, Helen Hunt is just adorable and Michael Stefani makes for a decent villian (though the trancers themselves provide most of the better moments). There’s also support from Art LaFleur, Telma Hopkins, Richard Herd, Anne Seymour among others.
The opening scenes depict a neon-lit future and do the job very well, considering the obvious financial limitations, while the 1985 scenes have obviously dated slightly but in a way that lends the whole thing a certain charm. There are a few devices that are used in whatever way the writers need them to be used (e.g. a “long second” device that is supposed to stretch one second into ten seconds but just seems to keep going as long as is required for the hero to get out of trouble) but somehow it just feels like yet another endearing, goofy quality than anything that sets out to deliberately insult intelligence.
B-movie fans will love this film, it’s been a cult favourite for years now and I have fond memories of that great trailer appearing on a number of VHS movies I rented out back in the mid-80s. A lot of those movies, when viewed today, just can’t possibly provide the entertainment promised in those garish adverts full of hyperbole. Trancers is one of the few films that can.
DIRECTOR: CHARLES BAND
WRITER:DANNY BILSON, PAUL DE MEO
STARS: TIM THOMERSON, HELEN HUNT, MICHAEL STEFANI, RICHARD HERD, ART LAFLEUR, TELMA HOPKINS, ANNE SEYMOUR
RUNTIME: 76 MINS APPROX