The 80's was the great era of cash-in movies. These kinds of movies not only have their own charm, but most of them are truly entertaining and respectful to original material. A really good example is Trancers, the 1985 Charles Band flick that was clearly cashing in on popular Hollywood movies like Blade Runner and The Terminator. Unfortunately, not many people have heard of this gem yet.
In the year 2247, Jack Deth, a hard boiled cop has to hunt down a criminal named Whistler, whose turned people into zombies by using his psychic powers. Since Whistler goes back in time to 1985, Jack has to stop our villain before lots of Angel City council members' ancestors get killed. Although the movie sounds like a combination between Blade Runner (the zombies look like humans until they're recognized by a machine, similar to Replicants) and The Terminator (our hero goes back in time to protect an ancestor from getting killed). This film also gives us a really great sci-fi atmosphere. It shows us a different way to go back in time: by using drugs. When someone take this time travel drug, their body from the present hibernates and they'll take over one of their ancestor's bodys in the past. To be honest, I think this method is much cooler than using Emmett Brown's DeLorean in Back To The Future. Plus, we have some awesome gadgets featured like a wristwatch that makes time slower like bullet-time mode in the Max Payne video game. It's really awesome.
On the other hand, I'm afraid that modern audiences might find it a bit cheesy and stupid. But there's one thing I have to remind you of, it was made by Empire Pictures. Empire is a production company that specialized in low budget movies and, as all of you know, their films are really entertaining. Although Trancers has some plot holes and bad acting (let's face it, Helen Hunt's performance in this film is pretty terrible), the film creates a really good "futuristic" atmosphere with good special effects and setting on a very limited budget. That should be a lesson to you that low-budget movies from the 80's sometimes aren't as bad as some critics say.
Another thing I'd like to mention is the DVD I watched it on. It keeps bugging me for several reasons. First off, some releases have a current photo of Helen Hunt on the cover instead of 1985 photos. I told a similar story about this in the review of William Shatner's Impulse. Please stop this method. Anyway, we have bigger problem...the picture quality. The DVD release of this film isn't the remastered version. Plus, it doesn't try to hide the fact that it's a Laserdisc rip! Not only is it presented in full frame (instead of original widescreen format) and blurry picture quality, after the ending credits it shows a Vestron Video logo and the words "End of side 2". What the hell?! I mean, if you don't have enough money to restore your film, that's fine. Troma usually uses Betacam/VHS masters for DVD releasing and I have no problem with that. But could you please cut the Vestron logo, the ending text, and 2 seconds of blackout in the middle of the movie? Come on!
Overall, this film deserves to be remastered and presented in its original state. This is a really entertaining flick from the great era of 80s sci-fi/neo-noir films. Please DO NOT remake this film.
Reviewed by Nuttawut Permphithak - 4/24/14