What do you get when you cross BLADE RUNNER, THE TERMINATOR and Charles Band? The answer to that age old question is an easy one: 1985’s scifi epic TRANCERS. Ok, maybe it’s not an age old question, and maybe epic is a strong word for it, but still..it’s pretty awesome. TRANCERS is a movie I can watch often, pretty much anytime there is pizza, beer and some buddies involved. So, for this week’s Exploitation Alley, we’re going back in time to 1985. Be sure to grab your time-freezing watches and don’t forget your hair gel (because ‘dry hair is for squids’, according to Jack Deth), it’s TRANCERS time. Read on!
TRANCERS tells the story of Jack Deth (A slick as hell Tim Thomerson, NEAR DARK, FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS) a detective in the year 2247. Jack’s job is looking for Trancers, a cult of people who have been taken over by Whisler, Jack’s nemesis. Anyone who has become a Trancer appears to be normal on the outside, but once they’re scanned by Jack, they suddenly become enraged and lethal, shown hilariously in the film’s opening, a scene that makes me laugh everytime. Jack goes to a cafe for some coffee and demands milk, because he ‘doesnt want any of that soy crap’, and instantly sees a suspicious looking guy eating and looking like a potential Trancer. Jack puts a special bracelet on the guy (the bracelet helps Deth detect a Trancer) and it comes up negative, right before the cafe’s waitress pretty much flips her shit and attacks Jack, revealing herself as a Trancer. She throws a pot of boiling water on Jack, lodges a knife into his leg, and pretty much tries to kill him, before Jack grabs his blaster and shoots her, destroying the body.
The film then cuts to Jack scuba diving in the ocean, where Los Angeles used to be, looking for classic artifacts of what once was. He’s met by McNulty, a fellow detective, who tells Deth that the ‘Counsel’ wants to see him. Jack replies with “fuck ’em” and walks back into the water, but changes his mind when McNulty informs him that Whisler is still alive. Jack goes to the Counsel and they tell him that Whisler has traveled back in time, to present day Los Angeles, trying to kill the ancestors of the counsel so that they will cease to exist. Whisler has traveled into the body of his ancestor, Detective Weisling, and Jack is told that if he travels back in time to stop him, he’ll be transferred into the body of Phil Dethton, a journalist relative of Jack’s.
Before going back in time, Jack sees the body of Whisler, and decides to pull out his blaster and destroy the body, so that Whisler won’t be able to return to the future. The Counsel provides Jack with pictures of their ancestors and he’s on his way, ready to save the future and stop Judgment Day..wait..wrong movie. Deth then instantly wakes up in the body of Dethton, and next to Leena, played by Helen Hunt (TWISTER, THE SESSIONS) a young punk rocker who Dethton had just spent the night with.
Deth drops Leena off at her job, as a Santa’s assistant at a mall, and is instantly attacked by the Santa, who is one of Whisler’s Trancers. Deth kills the guy in front of a crowd, then takes Leena and makes a run for it. While not on board with Jack’s claims of Trancers and the future, Leena finally comes around after Jack’s attacked by one of the Counsel’s ancestors, now a Trancer.
Pretty soon, Hap Ashby (a former famous baseball player who is now a homeless man) is the only one of the Counsel members’ relatives still alive, and Jack races to find and save him before Whisler gets to him first. I don’t want to ruin too much of the film, and have probably given away a lot more than I should have, but the film is great. Whatever Band and his crew lacked in a good budget, they made up for it with a really well done approach, and a creativity that rivals bigger budgeted fare. TRANCERS is also strangely funny as hell. When Leena takes Jack to a punk club that’s below her apartment, we’re given pretty much one of the funniest moments in the film. My buddy Daniel Marroquin and I laugh pretty hard everytime the scene comes on, it’s funny as hell.
The film sets up a showdown between Deth and Whisler and when all is seemingly going to hell, Jack’s saved by..I’m not going to say, but seriously…watch it. You’ll be laughing pretty hard at how everything works out. TRANCERS is one of Band’s best movies, and if there was a film that I would actually WANT to see remade, it would be this one. It’d be great to see someone like Jeffrey Dean Morgan or even AJ Bowen in a role like Jack Deth.
With all of that being said though, I consider TRANCERS a classic, and though it’s OBVIOUSLY a lesser version of THE TERMINATOR and BLADE RUNNER, it does manage to stand on its own. It’s inventive, and has one of the coolest characters of all time in it. I’d recommend checking out the whole series.
Until next week, have a good one!