Trancers, 1984 – ★★★½

While not *technically* a ‘Full Moon’ production (This is an Empire pictures offering and Full Moon wouldnt be established till 5 years after this film came out) ‘Trancers’ is about as ‘Full Moon’ as its possible to get really, and given that this film has now been ‘rebadged’ to carry the ‘Full Moon’ logo at the beginning of the film AND that all the sequels to this film were produced and released by ‘Full Moon’…AND that this was directed by Charles Band AND it contains a lot of cast and crew who would go on to work more or less full time for ‘Full Moon’, Im just gonna go ahead and give this thing a free pass into my current and ongoing ‘Full Moon’ marathon.

The plots actually kind of original all things considered for the time. The films set in the 23rd century and follows rogue cop ‘Jack Deth’ who’s obsessed with taking down the remnents of the ‘Trancers’ almost zombie like remnents of people who are being controlled like human puppets by a psychically powerful criminal called ‘Whistler’, when the film opens Jacks on the trail of the last of the Trancers, but it quickly becomes apparent that Whistler is FAR from deceased. and has instead escaped back in time to 1985 where he’s inhabited the body of one of his decendents with the intent to kill the descendents of the legal teams who put him away, thus not only erasing them from the timeline, but all their reletives leading up to that point.

In the opening moments of the film Jack hands his badge in as the chief of police isnt too happy with Jack going off brief to try and take out the Trancers, but they manage to convince him back when Whistlers plan is revealed and it’s here the main plot of the film kicks in. Jack is to travel back to 1985 with some spy gadgets and bring Whistler back to future alive in order to stand trial. Jacks initially hesitent because he wants Whistler dead, but agrees and heads back into the body of one of his decendents, where he’s immediately met by said decendents punk girlfriend ‘Lena’

Between them Jack must find his bearings in 80s Los Angeles, locate whistler and prevent anyones bloodlines being wiped out. in a fairly firey and action packed production!

While I cant say I was absolutely smitten with this one, I did have a fun enough time with it. The plot is really quite original for the time given the likes of ‘Highlander’ were still 2 years away, I enjoyed the Neo noir aesthetic of the 23rd century and when the action shifted to the 80s that wonderful grimeyness reminded me a little bit of a lower budgeted ‘cheap and cheerful’ version of ‘Big Trouble in Little China Town’

The pacing is a little stop/start for my taste, it would have been nice to have things gradually ramp up and down depending on act needs. But i’ve seen films handle this kind of thing way worse, tonally it’s solid, it knows the kind of world it wants to build and how it wants the characters within that world to behave, theres maybe a few wobbly bits on the scientific accuracy of some of the stuff touted here, but if I came to Empire pictures for scientific accuracy, I might as well go to my plumber for tap dancing lessons.

Theres a more than clean 3 act structure that DOES transition between those acts fairly well. Its a short film, clocking in at a measly 76 minutes, which I for one am VERY grateful for. and while the pacing is bit inconsistent, I was also grateful that there wasnt too much in the way of padding. All in? this is just a fairly original, decently written low-mid budget script that gets in, does what it needs to do, and gets out. If I was being nitpicky i’d have maybe finessed a little more off the running time, another 5 minutes could have been lost with no major issues and it probably would have worked as a tighter piece all round, but hey. These guys were making all sorts of rubbish around this time. This is decent.

Directions rock solid too, again its inescapable that budget was clearly an issue as some of the set designs do look a little rough around the edges (putting drainpipes down the sides of an early 80s hatchback does not a future car make) But Band works with what he has as best he can and I was genuinely kind of impressed with what he and the team managed to pull off. especially in the 80s parts of the movie where they really help drive that griminess home in places.

Its also clear the cast were worked with closely (presumably because they couldnt afford for too many mistakes/redos) as they all give fairly professional clear and clean performances they work with the set space and are animate and precise with what they’re doing within the scene. Which I think saves this film in more than a few places, as it would have been so easy for this thing to devolve into head and shoulder shots of people firing exposition at each other for over an hour.

The cines solid too we have sequences where the camera isnt afraid to move around the set/location with a decent mix of shot types ,pans and tracking shots, it adds a real veneer of professionalism that does help smooth out the rougher aspects of the set design. Theres a nice use of colour with plenty of neon getting a showing and the sequences themselves are tightly packaged, with good amounts of B-roll.

I absolutely think this thing could have gone further with experimentation. But for whats there? we have a rock blood SOLID piece that does go above the average on delivery and even though it could have gone further, its trying, and I have a lot of appreciation for that.

Performances are all solid as well though for my money Tim Thomerson is easily the show stealer as Jack. he really works with those noir elements to help bring out a character thats 1 part ‘Maltese Falcon’ to 1 part ‘Blade Runner’. He works a more than decent range across the runtime of this thing, hes animate, lively and bang on on the delivery front throughout and I thought he was easily worth checking this thing out for alone.

All in all? This was a DAMN fine work, probably Charles Bands best work as a director (in my opinion, nothings topped this as of the time of writing at least!) While imperfect, if your looking for a decent original piece of Sci-fi that, may not necessarily WOW, but is satisfying, confident in its own ability, entertaining and able to hold your attention for the full runtime. Then ‘Trancers’ is almost certainly worth checking out.


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