Trancers (1985) came out on HBO and was where I first saw it, but was also released on VHS. It was a low budget movie, sort of modeled something like Terminator with Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was a time travel film, but to aid in their time travel, they were injected with a drug. Now granted Terminator is a much better film, and I actually prefer the original over the sequel, Terminator 2: Judgement Day. At any rate back then if one film had some kind of success, you could pretty much expect to see many spinoff/ripoffs. I remember seeing Trancers all the time at Blockbuster. I have to admit it does have a cool cover. Actually it's not that bad of a film either, if you can deal with the low budget and some of the neon cheesy lighting. I think it may be the first role I'd seen Helen Hunt in.
Trancers is the story of Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) a character with a very pulpy name, who lives in the year 2247. He travels back in time to Los Angeles, 1985 to prevent the murders of some ancestors of the council members. While tracking down the evil Martin Whistler (Michael Stefani) he falls in love with Leena (Helen Hunt, who looks around 20 years old in this film, and about a fifth of Thomerson's age. Ok, weird and a bit creepy). Jack has a personal vendetta against Whistler and his army of trancers because Jack's wife was recently killed by a trancer.
The movie is your basic B-movie action story--a guy, a girl, and somebody who chases them around trying to kill them (does that plot sound similar to Terminator?). This simplicity actually adds to the quality of the film. Trancers succeeds in taking some silly and unoriginal ideas and turns them into an enjoyable piece of entertainment. I say entertainment since Trancers is somewhat lacking in the artistic merit department.
To add some madness to the mayhem, Jack has to face a rabid Santa Claus, a rabid diner waitress, a rabid surfer, and some rabid cops. Whistler creates an army against Jack and Leena by trancing innocent civilians. Trancing is a mind control technique, which forces Whistler's trancers to obey
only his will. Of course, being tranced looks just like being rabid to me.
Jack's mission is basically to protect the life of Hap Ashby, a former pro baseball player who is now a homeless person. But one of Ashby's descendants will be a major political leader in 2247. Whistler wants to singe Ashby to keep his descendants from being born. (Hmmm, that sounds familiar.)
I won't spoil the ending for you, but I will say that everything is wrapped up and a few new twist are introduced. In few films does the protagonist have to battle for his life against a candy cane wielding Santa Claus. Yes, a scene like that actually works in this film.
Trancers, however, has never received the critical acclaim it is due, if indeed it was due any. When Time Magazine did a muli-page article on Helen Hunt some time back, however, it failed to mention Trancers as being among her film credits. (Illuminati, conspiracy theory perhaps?) Most critics have dismissed it as being an imitation of Bladerunner and Terminator.
It is not Bladerunner. It is not Terminator.
It is Trancers.
Oh by the way, Trancers went on to have six more sequels. Six! There was also a "lost" half hour sequel episode, Trancers: City of Lost Angels, set between the first two films. It was released via fullmoonstreaming.com in September 2013.
By the way if you haven't seen Trancers, and would like to partake in its majesty, you can find it on Veoh here.