Shitty Movie Sundays: Spice World & Trancers II

I never met a movie I wouldn’t watch.

— Missile Test

I thought I was being clever when I made that little play on the famous Will Rogers quote. I never thought it would get me in trouble, that I would be forced to live up to such whimsy as if it were a true declaration. I was wrong. One of my friends, Michael, over at Daily Exhaust, decided to challenge my integrity and the integrity of Missile Test by throwing out a suggestion for a shitty movie review.

“I know what movie you should watch. It’s shitty.”

“Oh yeah? What?”

“Spice World.”

“No no no no no.”

This conversation was happening over IM. I could have just ignored him, moved on to another subject, but I thought about that shitty mission statement above. It was becoming a serious credo for an important part of Missile Test. Maybe I couldn’t just blow off an astoundingly shitty movie so quickly. Maybe I had to live up to words that I had initially typed in jest, if only to show how seriously I take this site.

“How dare you,” I typed into the little box.

Then I watched the first minute of the film on youtube.

“Dammit, Michael. I will get you back for this.”

“lol,” came the reply.

Lol, indeed.

“Hey, we should get a couple sixers, watch it over here,” Michael suggested.

Michael and his wife have a two bedroom on the sixth floor of a new building on the southern fringes of East Harlem. I used to live in a real hellhole just a few blocks to the north, the kind of place where the stairwells were covered in piss every morning when I got home from work at the bar. That’s not an exaggeration. Stepping over the puddles was a way of life in that building. One morning I came home a Trancers IIlittle after five and there were fire trucks out front. I go in, and every apartment below mine had firemen going in and out, sleepy pajama-clad tenants standing in the piss-smelling hallway. I remember thinking, “Please, please, not my apartment.”

I made my way upstairs and my apartment door was standing open, and there’s my roommate sitting on the couch watching the television.

“What happened?”

“Pipe burst behind the wall in our bathroom, flooded all the downstairs apartments. Didn’t do shit to our bathroom, though.”

I felt good about that. Tough luck for my neighbors, but I was tired.

So that’s what I think about whenever I visit East Harlem. Michael’s place is nice, though. And Spice World is a horrible, horrible movie. Alien: Resurrection is a better movie than Spice World.

Michael and I didn’t manage to make it through the whole flick, but that’s okay. There’s a caveat to the Shitty Movie Sundays declaration. In its extended version, it reads, “I never met a movie I wouldn’t watch — for at least fifteen minutes, anyway.” Critics walk out of films all the time. Sometimes a movie is so bad there’s no reason to believe the situation will improve, so there’s no more reason to continue subjecting yourself to such time-stealing punishment. We made it to the half hour mark of Spice World, unable to even muster the will to make wisecracks. It was just sucking the wind out of us at every opportunity. I looked over at Michael and said, “Want to watch Trancers II?”

“Yeah, let’s do it.”

Trancers II is the followup to the 1985 shitty classic I reviewed a few weeks ago. Once again, the film stars Tim Thomerson as gritty cop from the future Jack Deth, now settled down into his life in late 20th century Los Angeles. Helen Hunt returns as Lena, and Biff Manard extends his role in this film as the luckless Hap Ashby.

When we last left Jack Deth, he was clearing 1985 of everything trancer related and warning against the dangers of having dry hair. Mission accomplished, Jack Deth. But now it’s 1991, and the trancers are back. Their leaders still have designs on world domination, this time through control of a mental institution, run by psychiatrist E. D. Wardo, played by b-movie bad guy stalwart Richard Lynch. He’s a bit new age, a bit hardass, and very, very California. Like Jack Deth, Wardo is also a transplant from the future, a relative of Martin Whistler, the bad guy from the first film.

Jack Deth and Wardo do their dance, trancers get singed, and, most importantly, Jack Deth spouts ridiculous one-liners, brewed to shitty movie perfection.

Trancers II is a movie that is fully aware of what it is trying to be, and thank goodness. Because if the filmmakers were trying to be serious, it’s just sad. The first Trancers flick was b-movie schlock of epic proportions. The sequel had much to live up to, and in many weird ways, it surpassed its predecessor. Not in storytelling, or acting, or technique, mind you. In fact, Trancers II is a worse film than Trancers.

But it’s the sheer ineptitude of the production that makes it so compelling.

One of the first things I noticed was the work of cinematographer Adolfo Bartoli. A big fan of the full frame closeup, Bartoli ensures that the audience will never want for shots of the cast offering up dry readings while staring directly into the camera. The lack of imagination in the camera work was astounding, so bad that it was actually noticeable.

The script had a bit more to work with, the film being about ten minutes longer than Trancers, but it still comes in at a spartan 85 minutes, director Charles Band once more proving that if he can’t craft a good film, he can at least craft an efficient one.

Thomerson is perfect for the role of Jack Deth. He can narrow his eyes and look serious, but he’s just goofy enough to pull it off. He’s deadpan, yes, but a viewer can tell he’s in on the joke. He has to be, otherwise lines like this would not be possible:

“Dammit, McNulty! Next time someone hands you an exploding ham, I’m gonna pass the mustard!”

If this flick was a comedy, a line like that would be disastrous. But it’s a sci-fi b-movie, so it’s awesome.

Finally, having worked out most of the time travel nonsense in the first movie, this effort has less plot holes, but it hardly makes things more coherent. If any of this mattered, Trancers II would be a failure. As it is, it’s the second entry of a shitty movie franchise that had surprising legs. Hell, Thomerson is still kicking. There’s still plenty of time to make Trancers VII.

Despite it’s charm, Trancers II is awful. Alien: Resurrection is better.

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