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Trancers (1985)

by on 2011/12/10

“I don’t care if you’re a kid, an old lady, or a kitty cat, I’m gonna kick your ass!”

* * *

Ever seen a detective from the apocalyptic future shoot a yellow-faced zombie mall Santa?

I have. Thanks to the glory that is Trancers.

I’ve also now witnessed an attempted murder using only a tanning booth. How many brave heroes in the 80s met the same crispy end?

This month on we are looking at unconventional Christmas movies. As far as unconventional anything goes, Trancers is an 11 on the Richter scale.

Hacker Renders tried to tell me about Trancers earlier this year but I just wouldn’t listen. You’re nearing the outer rim of the Guilty Pleasure Galaxy right now.

And how. It is great. In fact, it may be one of the finest examples of ‘so bad it is good’ I’ve ever seen.

This low-budget feature – I think the only costs were a convertible rental and some hair gel – stars Tim Thomerson as Trooper Jack Deth and Helen Hunt (Curse of the Jade Scorpion) as Leena.

You’ve seen guys like Tim Thomerson before – he’s the guy at the sporting event yelling so loud he’s spitting on your neck. He’s the man hitting on the leathery-faced cougar at the fern bar. He’s leading the conga line on the cruise deck. He’s tall, he’s loud, he’s tanned, he slicks his hair back.

“Dry hair is for squids.”

Trooper Deth lives to kill squids or trancers – weak-minded people are used like stabby puppets to do the evil bidding of the nefarious mind-controlling cult leader Michael Whistler.

Deth delivers critical “plot” points with jaw-grinding intensity. Of trancers,  he intones they are, “not really alive, not dead enough  …and I’m tired. Real tired.”

It is as serious as  the fake scar on his rugged face.

The film grabs you right from the beginning. Trooper sits down for a cup of joe and the aged diner waitress runs at him wielding a cleaver. There’s not a bit of this that’s scary – it is all outrageously hilarious.

Looking like a starved teenage runaway in this film, Helen Hunt plays Leena, the hapless one-night-stand of Jack Deth’s ancestor in 80s Los Angeles. Jack Deth is sent back to inhabit the strangely similar body of his long-lost relative. He’s back to the past to save the bloodlines of the future’s leaders Chairman Spencer (Richard Herd) and Chairman Ashe (Anne Seymour).

Messing around with past, the evil Whistler will be able to deal with those who oppose him in the future. You know, because they won’t exist and stuff.

This helps the film-makers save on all the tinfoil they had to use to make the futuristic sets in the opening scenes. Sent back to plain old 80s LA, all they need are tight pants, and some evening shoots in abandoned buildings and parking lots.

Festive, sort of. If you count the mall Santa. Intellectual, no. Entertaining, oh yes.

I will leave you with a holiday greeting from Trancers‘ own outstanding script:

“Peace on f*ckin’ earth!”

* * *

76 minutes

Rated PG-13 for suggesting that mall Santas might not be real, Helen Hunt dressed as an elf and a homeless guy using a baseball as a deadly weapon

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