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Saturday, 25 February 2012

TRANCERS (1985)

Eighties sci-fi b-movies, when done with gusto and tongues wedged in cheeks, were a thing of beauty. TRANCERS is one of the finest examples of the genre from that era, and while it's cheesy, ridiculous and at times nonsensical, it's also a great piece of trash cinema which has a hell of a lot of fans out there. There's time travel, shoulder pads, Tim Thomerson as the iconic Jack Deth, Helen Hunt in her pre-serious movies days, a stretched budget and even more stretched suspension of disbelief. It's awesome.

Mixing elements of Blade Runner and cyberpunk with time travel (in a manner that really reminds me of Quantum Leap, even though that came later), Trancers tells the story of Jack Deth (Thomerson), a future cop who is hurled back in time (to inhabit a body which looks just like his own) to track down and destroy a criminal mastermind called Whistler, who is able to transform people into zombie-like killing machines known as Trancers by means of weird hypnotic powers.

Deth follows Whistler to 1985, where the villain is tracking down the ancestors of a future council in order to kill them and have the future for himself. Deth leads us (and Helen Hunt's character of Leena) on a thrilling cat-and-mouse chase of an action movie as he faces off against foam-spitting Trancers galore in his quest to overcome Whistler.

The thing that holds the whole bundle of nonsensical chaos together is Thomerson's performance as the wisecracking, ass kicking future lawman Jack Deth, who gets all of the best lines and all of the best scenes. It's a role that should have made him far more famous than it did, but hey, this is a Charles Band movie and we couldn't really hope for more.

Speaking of which, Band's direction is actually excellent throughout the film, taking a limited budget and running with it as best he could. In fact, it feels like a much larger scale film than it is for much of its running time, thanks to some clever use of music, lighting and sound effects.

The climactic battle against Whistler is a bit weird though, as it's not really all that climactic. It just kinda happens, and then the movie ends. For fans of the 80s sci-fi aesthetic, chases, gun fights and wisecracking cops from a dystopian future, Trancers is essential viewing.

For anyone with a taste for high art (what are you reading this for if you're expecting Oscars material?), stay away. This is a movie for us old-school VHS nerds, and we love it. So there. We love the sequels, too. Well, four of the sequels. The series actually went up to Trancers 6, but the least said about that film, the better.

(Which probably means I'll end up sitting through it for your reading pleasure at some point)



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