Today I watched Charles Band’s Trancers (1984)
Trancers begins in the dark future of 2247 in the City of Angels, built on the ruins of L.A. Jack Deth is our hero of this time, a hard boiled cop on the edge who has gone a little rogue. Deth hunts down people known as trancers who were hypnotized by a psychic supervillain named Whistler, who killed Deth’s wife before he himself id killed by Deth. Deth is happy to just go diving and to live with his depression, but he is called back to the force when Whistler somehow returns and travels back in time to eliminate the ancestors of the current ruling body. So, of course, Deth has to go back to the distant past of 1985 to defeat him, but there is a catch, when they go back they have to take the bodies of distant ancestors, and while Deth’s ancestor is just some reporter, Whistler has taken the identity of a respected police detective.
In the glory days of video rental, an uncountable number of cheap genre flicks were released by people like Charles Band and his Full Moon Productions company. In a lot of these films high concept sci-fi ideas had to be pared down to an affordable project and one easy way to do that was to send the hero to modern day Earth through some contrivance or another. Trancers does this with a good deal of creativity at least. It’s a bummer we don’t get to see more of Deth’s world, but in recompense we do get some great humour and neat ideas. Like the twist of the criminal becoming a cop, which puts our hero in a compromising situation, made more compromising from his experiences with his ancestor’s one night stand.
Even so the film does take a little while to get going. Charles Band has the sensibilities of a guy who idolizes a lot of Hollywood’s cheese and schlock and set out to recreate it with a distinctly D.I.Y. attitude. He makes it work with a wonderfully self aware sense of humour, such self awareness doesn’t mean irony though, his movies are nothing if not genuine. Along with this is the always straight faced Tim Thomerson, a master B-movie actor if ever there was one. Much like Band, Thomerson comes off as completely genuine as he bops his head to a punk rendition of Jingle Bells. That scene really is where this movie started to all come together for me, it showcases how Band can couple absurdity with a very real sense of humour that helps ground the film in some human bizarreness. 4/5