Trancers (1984)

Mercifully, Full Moon Fever February is coming to an end.

All month, I had to deal with Charles Band.  I thought we started nicely with Puppet Master.  Then things went downhill with The Gingerdead Man and Killer Eye: Halloween Haunt.  So I spent my birth month begging for sweet release from this cursed existence.  Thank fuck it’s here…

In the form of Tim Thomerson…

As Jack Deth.

Let’s back up for a minute.  I briefly mentioned back in the Puppet Master article that Charles Band created Full Moon Features when his original company, Empire Pictures, folded in the late 1980s.  One of Band’s more popular films from his Empire days is this week’s feature – Trancers.

Let’s not dilly dally around here, motherfuckers.  Let’s jump right into the back of the DVD box for Trancers “I” from the “Trancers: The Definitive Collection DVD” set.  (Yes, I own this shit.  Thank you, Jason Oliver.  You are a fucking asshole for leaving this in my apartment.)  The plot is: “Welcome to Angel City, 2247.  Trooper Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) is wiping out the last disciples of Whistler, who used his psychic power to ‘trance’ those with inferior minds, forcing them to follow his every desire. Though he’d been thought dead, he’s very much alive… in the year 1985. Whistler’s master plan – kill the ancestors of the City Council. With the Council disbanded, nothing can stop him from controlling the city.  And that’s where Deth comes in. Jack is sent back in time, inhabiting the body of his ancestor.  Just one problem, Whistler’s ancestor is a police detective, and he’s trancing people in 1985. With the help of a strong-willed punk girl, Lena (Helen Hunt), he must find and protect Hap Ashby, a former baseball pitcher now living on Skid Row, and confront Whistler.  The Trancers Saga begins.”

That’s a whole lotta words to fit on the back of a DVD box, but they did it.  They really did it.  They also said so much that I’m even wondering if I need to watch this.  There’s a good guy and a bad guy.  There’s a baseball player on Skid Row.  There’s a punk girl played by Helen Hunt…  Wait.  Helen Hunt was pretty in the late 90s.  This is the mid 80s.  She’s likely super hot in this movie.

Okay, you got me, Charles Band, my most vile of archenemies…  I’ll play your game to see young Helen Hunt in action.

The name’s Deckard…  Er… I mean Jack Deth.

I will say this movie starts out about as bad ass as you can get.  Not only do the credits appear next to a neon blue light that immediately makes me think of Blade Runner with a soundtrack that makes me think of The Terminator or some other sci-fi 80s flick, but it also gets right to the point.  The credits last only a short bit before a futuristic car pulls up with Jack Deth himself.  He parks next to a diner where he explains in voice over that he’s been chasing down Whistler’s “trancers” and gives us a bit of info about how they are slaves to Whistler, our main bad guy.  He’s hard boiled and grizzled.  He approaches a guy who  he thinks might be a trancer, but he turns out to be on the level.  Instead, the friendly looking old black lady working at the diner is one of Whistler’s trancers.  She gets this crazy demonic look and attacks.  He shoots her and she disintegrates.

And there we have it.  We’re off to a pretty fast start.  I will say that Charles Band doesn’t typically fuck around.  Puppet Master started with a pretty tense opening with the Nazis coming to kill what’s-his-nuts.  The Gingerdead Man started with some good old-fashioned Gary Busey crazy.  Killer Eye… started.  Okay, three out of four ain’t bad.  Still, we get an idea about Jack.  We learn about Whistler’s followers.  We see what happens when someone is “tranced”.  We even learn that Jack kinda likes to be a loose cannon. When his balls get busted over some procedure and he quits.  When he’s called back in after learning Whistler is still alive, we also learn Jack likes antiques from Los Angeles’ past so he’s keen to be selected to go back in time – as well as the best suited person to hunt down Whistler.

Deth finds out that one of the three head honchos on the Council that runs Angel City has been murdered.  They play a recording of Whistler admitting to the crime and his master plan to go back in time and wipe out whole family lines to change the future.  This is seemingly going well so far as the council member, and his entire family, simply vanished when his ancestor was killed.  The plan, which is about the only thing here in these opening scenes that I’m not a fan of – and is the ENTIRE THING THAT PROGRESSES THE PLOT TO MAKE THIS MOVIE POSSIBLE – is the whole idea that they can just send someone back in time to possess the body of an ancestor to do stuff in the past.  If this was possible, I’m not sure there is need for any police officers or detectives or anything in the present (in this case, the 23rd Century).  Right?  In addition to that, how do people simply vanish?  Wouldn’t things change from people being simply removed from existence?  Oh whatever…

Plus, they totally use something that will eventually end up on the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation to do all this time traveling stuff.

No, really, that is a prop from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

They tell Deth to bring Whistler back into the present to stand trial by injecting his ancestor with an antidote.  Deth, who hates Whistler, refuses and destroys Whistler’s body pretty much assuring that Whistler’s consciousness cannot return.  One of the council dudes is pretty upset about this, but they still send him.  They even continue to give Deth the antidote to send Whistler back…  Even though his body is destroyed and he would have no place for that consciousness to return.  Not to mention, he’s a loose cannon that the council guy already has doubts about…?

Oops, looks like there was a bit of editing problems there, but, fuck it, whatever.

The time travel thing happens and Deth lands in his ancestor’s body.  They send him a picture of one council guy’s ancestor and the baseball card of former Angels pitcher Hap Ashby who is the ancestor of another council chick.  He also has a watch that will give him a “long second” (which allows him to turn a single second into ten seconds) and a good old .38 Special.

However, his best gadget to use in the past?  Helen “Hard Body in a Leotard but Then Puts on a Sexy Santa Outfit” Hunt…

Now, Lena (Hunt), is a bit weirded out by Phil’s (who is Jack from the future) behavior this morning.  They had a hot fuck session the night before and he told her some bullshit about how great she was (which I can only imagine 20 year old Helen Hunt was pretty spectacular).  He takes her to work at the mall where she takes pictures for the mall Santa.  When the Santa sees Deth, he attacks, revealing he is a trancer.  Santa tries to bite Jack’s jugular, but he escapes.  Deth shoots the Santa and hightails it out of there with Lena – who believes she is being kidnapped.  Oh, and everyone else in the mall also thinks she’s being kidnapped.

Later, as the cops investigate the shooting, the main detective, Weisling (who is Whistler), causes the body to disintegrate.  He questions the lady at the mall playing Mrs. Claus.  Lena eventually decides to help Deth find one of the ancestors after he tells her all about the trancers and how neither of them can be turned into one because they are too strong and Whistler and the future and what have you.  However, Jack can’t find the photo that has the first person’s whereabouts written on it.  Unfortunately, he dropped it at the Santa village set up at the mall.  Whistler gets the photo and goes to the address on the back to find one of the ancestors.  When Deth goes into the tanning salon to talk to the ancestor, Lena takes off with his car – despite him asking her to stay behind to help him.

Apparently the ancestor of the old man council person is a trancer too and he locks Deth into one of the tanning booths and tries to burn him to death.  Heh…  Deth gets burnt to death.

Also, Lena has a Confederate flag on the back of her jean jacket.  This leaves
me very conflicted…

Whatever.  Lena does eventually come back to find the trancer ancestor has killed himself and frees Jack from the tanning booth.  Knowing Whistler knows they are there, they get surrounded by the police.  Whistler orders them to fire, but Jack uses his long second to move himself and Lena away from the line of fire.  Because that one second that should have only turned into ten seconds really turned into like 4 million seconds so they were able to escape.  When Lena asks why Jack didn’t kill Whistler right then, he tells her that he couldn’t both kill him and save her.  She comes clean about leaving him behind at the tanning salon but realized he’s a good dude after all.  Also, not to mention, he totally fucked his own mission to save her hot ass.

That night, they hole up at one of her friend’s house in Chinatown.  There’s a cute little exchange when she reads the slip from a fortune cookie claiming it was from Whistler saying “I’ll kill you and your bitchin’ girlfriend!”  So that’s all it takes to score 20 year old Helen Hunt.  Save her from being shot and eat Chinese food together.  That’s literally all it takes.

They go downstairs to the club under her friend’s apartment where they run into Lena’s ex-boyfriend.  Jack punches him out.  When some more punks try to start shit, he punches them out too.  There is no fight scene.  He throws four punches – one per punk who comes up to him.  That scene ends really fast and next thing we know, they are back in the apartment where she gives him a Christmas present – a toy robot that we didn’t see her purchase and she had no hope of being able to purchase in the time they’ve been together.  It’s like she magically conjured up this present.  Which would be an awesome super power to have.  Anyway, she’s dressed like a geisha and he’s in his wife beater.  This is 80s for “time to fuck… HARD.”  And I should know because I lived through all of the 80s.

Their latest hot fuck session is interrupted by a young girl who is an ancestor of his cop boss, McNulty, who orders him to come back to the 23rd Century.  That turns into an actually charming little thing where this little girl acts like a smart talkin’, sass-filled detective.  He kicks McNulty out and returns to plowing Lena.  However, McNulty is hiding out and shoots an antidote to bring Jack back to the future where the old council lady decides to pull Deth off the case.  He convinces her to send him back.  She agrees and he finds himself cuddled with a naked Lena.

On the news, Jack discovers Whistler plans to round up all the homeless in Skid Row and issue them ID cards to keep track of them.  He and Lena steal motorcycles to go to Skid Row in hopes of finding Ashby.  They talk to a few winos who tell them where they can find Ashby.  Before they head to an abandoned paper mill where Ashby is said to hang out, Jack learns that Whistler already knows about that location and plans to sweep the mill to round up everyone.  Jack pretends to be a bum to help hide from a couple cops looking for Ashby.  When Deth calls them “troopers” they realize he’s there looking for Ashby as well.

One of the cops corners Deth and reveals he’s a trancer and starts to turn into the demonic type of follower but Lena kills him before he can fire on Deth.  Elsewhere, Ashby is playing hobo baseball with other bums using a stick and empty booze bottles – which doesn’t seem terribly safe, but what do I know?  Maybe if I was a washed up boozer, I’d hope for someone to hit me in the fucking face with broken shards of booze bottles.  Fuck, Full Moon Fever has made me want a faceful of glass.

As does life sometimes too…

“You… *burb*… sure you wanna… *hiccup*… take mah

Alright, so Lena and Deth find Ashby and escape with him.  Ashby suggests they “divide and conquer”.  In other words, he suggests they split up.  However, should we be taking any fucking advice from a drunk?  The answer, ultimately, is fuck no because Lena takes a bullet graze to the arm.  She also flies through a window on her motorcycle.  So, no, I don’t think we should be taking advice from the bum.

Jack and Ashby return to Chinatown and Lena’s friend’s apartment.  Lena is tending to her injury.  Ashby, Jack, and Lena talk about some stuff and Jack has Ashby sober up while he calls Whistler to “make a deal” with him.  He tells Whistler he’ll turn over Ashby and the future and all he wants is Lena.  Whistler is onto the trick to lure him out to the final battle.  He tries to take Lena under his control but realizes he can’t.  Instead he tosses her off a building and Jack uses his refilled “long second” watch to save her.  Ashby uses his rocket arm to hit Whistler with a body causing him to fall off the building.

Jack realizes one of his antidotes is broken so he can only send himself or Whistler back to the future.  He opts to send Whistler to stay behind with Lena.  Weisling is unaware of what’s transpired or what’s going on.  Things seem to be all okay because Deth now gets to plow a 20 year old Helen Hunt on the reg.  I’d call that a happy ending.

I have to say I’m pretty pleased that I wrapped up Full Moon Fever with this movie.  I had always intended on doing this movie because the Trancers series is a pretty integral part of the Full Moon library.  However, I kinda fucked up.  You see, Trancers 2 through, like, 100 were all legit Full Moon Features productions.  The first, though, was not.  Yeah, it was Charles Band, but it was under his old company Empire Pictures.  As Full Moon took off and Band was able to absorb his Empire films into the Full Moon catalog, this one just kinda eventually became a Full Moon Feature.

I figured I would go easy on myself after the shitfests that were The Gingerdead Man and Killer Eye: Halloween Haunt.

I probably did go too easy on myself because this is a solid sci-fi, action flick.  It is absolutely an 80s staple and really not done cheaply.  This looks just as well made as about 90% of the rest of the 80s movies in the genre.  I’d even go as far as to say it is BETTER than most Cannon Films of the same era.  Thomerson and Hunt were good as Jack and Lena.  It should come as no surprise that they would reprise their roles twice more together and Thomerson went on to do a total of five of these.  Also, Helen Hunt is incredibly cute and likable in this movie.  You really do see the groundwork for what she would later become in the late 90s leading to four consecutive Emmys and an Oscar.

I will say, though, upon realizing my mistake to include this movie as part of this theme month, I nearly tossed it aside for the second film in the series.  I am exceptionally glad I didn’t.  The sequels are not good movies.  This first one had all the tone and quality.  The sequels really just had Jack Deth and the Trancers name.

So now, I must close the books on February’s Full Moon Fever theme and look forward to March with a string of shitty horror movies made in the 2000s that were all free for me to watch on Amazon Prime.  I bid you farewell and I’ll see you next week for 2006’s The Beckoning!

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