Blade Runner was a successful film. It combined science fiction and noir in an unforgettable visual and atmospheric pastiche. It should follow, then, that it would influence later films and also spawn a fair share of cheap imitations. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Trancers, a b-movie extraordinaire from 1984.
From schlock cinema director Charles Band, he of such exotic titles as Hideous! and Evil Bong, Trancers follows hard-bitten future detective Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) as he travels back in time from the SoCal of the future to hunt down a fugitive in 1980s Los Angeles before he kills the ancestors of the ruling council of the future. But before this happens, the audience gets a quick glimpse of the world of the future, as ripped from Blade Runner, budget allowing. Cars have little doohickeys welded onto them and make jet-like whines as they drive along. Men’s suits have outlandish shoulder pads and the ties, well, they’d find a ready home in 1985. Guns shoot lasers, diners have ersatz coffee, and people who have been ‘tranced’ turn into bloodthirsty mutants in seconds. All of these are problems the future world will have to overcome, but in the meantime, it’s back to 1985.
There, Jack Deth has been transported into the body of one of his ancestors, Phil Deth. Oh, man. He hooks up with Phil’s hookup from the night before, Leena (a very young and, it would appear, struggling to find decent work, Helen Hunt). She’s a trusting sort, buying very quickly into Jack Deth’s story about traveling through time. But there’s not really any surprise there. This dog clocks in at only 76 minutes. Niceties such as character and plot development need to be hurried along when a movie’s running time is that short.
Jack Deth is running around L.A. chasing down Martin Whistler, who is inhabiting the body of one of his own ancestors, a police detective. Irony of ironies. Whistler not only threatens the future with his actions, he also has strange psychic powers that can turn people into trancers. So the man’s a menace. Why the future didn’t send back an army of cops to take care of this guy isn’t even hinted at, never mind explained. But that is just one of the many time travel plot holes throughout this movie that make it a geeky eye-roller. It’s not enough that it’s a shitty movie. It’s an idiotic shitty movie. It will have audience members scratching their heads not because of complex plot elements but because it handles time travel so horribly.
“So, if Whistler is back in time killing these folks’ ancestors, why are they aware in the future that it’s even happening?”
“Wait, they have to send Jack Deth back into one of his ancestor’s bodies, but they can send back a watch and a gun no problem?”
“Hold on a minute. Is that the head bad guy from V? I loved that show when I was a kid!”
“Just a second. Only ten minutes of this movie rips off Blade Runner. The rest just sucks. What gives?”
“Was that the boom operator’s hand? Did I just see that?”
Trancers is a rare one. Mere seconds into the first scene I knew that Alien: Resurrection was a better movie. To top it off, Trancers has five sequels. Five. That is just an extraordinary amount of persistence on the part of the shitty movie industry, and I salute them.