Trancers (1984)

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Trancers (1984)

Post  BoG on Wed Dec 17, 2014 10:12 pm

This was from producer/director Charles Band, known for his low budget sci-fi and horror since the late seventies (he was responsible for Laserblast in '78). This might be his most famous effort because it spawned a bunch of direct-to-video sequels and may also be his best. It's derivative of both Blade Runner and The Terminator but is also innovative and entertaining despite the very low budget. Tim Thomerson stars as a plainclothes cop of the far future, year 2247, with the unusual name of Jack Deth. Like Decker in Blade Runner, he provides some narration at the beginning. His nemesis is a criminal named Whistler, who can convert people into zombie-like killers - the ones so named in the film title. Whistler's latest plan is to time travel into the past and eliminate ancestors of the city council; this is done by projecting his mind into one of his own ancestors (this was also the plot of the recent X-Men:Days of Future Past).  Deth follows him there - to the then-current eighties L.A. - by inhabiting the mind of his ancestor, Phil Deth. He meets the much-younger Lena (Helen Hunt in an early role), who quickly falls in love with him.

The drawback to such a low budget venture is that it's not able to convey such a future. The film poster, for example, is misleading - Deth never wears any kind of futuristic police uniform or helmet; he is always dressed like a contemporary cop and behaves like one of those hard-boiled private eyes in a crime noir. Of course, once he's in the eighties, the film doesn't need to show too many effects or any kind of set design to show us a future. He does employ a gizmo which can sort of halt time for 10 seconds - I thought he could only use this gadget once but he uses it a 2nd time near the end. But, things do not stop moving completely, instead going into very slow motion. Whistler's mind controls the body of an ancestor who happens to be a high-ranking cop, which means he can usually send other cops after Deth, and he creates those zombie-like Trancers, too. A lot of this takes place in empty alleyways and abandoned buildings, and involves bums, including an ex-baseball player who figures into the plot. Among the humor bits - a fellow cop follows Deth into the past briefly, but the only ancestor he could inhabit was a little girl. BoG's Score: 6 out of 10

Trancer trivia: the first sequel wasn't until 1991; Helen Hunt also returned; she was also in the 2nd sequel in 1992, but not in the later ones in 1994; these last ones were written by comic book writer Peter David, known for his long-running stint on the Hulk comic book series.
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