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Hurts So Good - TRANCERS


When the first five minutes of a film contains a sweet ass hovercraft, a zombie attack in a diner that culminates in a shootout, and a cheesy 80s melodramatic detective voiceover (similar to that of Joe Friday from everyone’s beloved Dragnet), you know you’re on to something. That was the case with this week’s piece of 1985 cheese that famed B-movie director Charles Band donned TRANCERS. Its chock full of everything that movies of the period needed to be relevant not only then, but to stand the test of time and hold value through the years: a badass hero, a sexy, not-so-in-distress damsel, a nefarious villain and enough sci-fi terminology to drive a Trekkie insane.

Released in a day and age with, and majorly influenced by, both BLADE RUNNER & THE TERMINATOR, TRANCERS takes us 300 or so years into the future to a world where Los Angeles has fallen due to a massive earthquake and has been rechristened “Lost Angeles.” With only remnants of the city still above water, forming what the inhabitants call “Angel City,” trooper Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) roams the streets in search of the remaining trancers - mindless zombies who were once under the control of his arch nemesis/wife’s slayer, Martin Whistler (Michael Stefani). Under the pretense that he’d killed Whistler, Deth has lost all validation in life. It’s only when he learns that Whistler is still alive and has gone “down the line” (time travel of the consciousness into the body of an ancestor) that he gets his shit together. He decides to repurpose himself by traveling back into his many times great-grandfather’s body to pursue Whistler who intends to pre-kill the present day leaders by murdering their predecessors and create his own new world order. Along the way, he teams up with his forefather’s vixen, Lena (Helen Hunt), and together they form a dynamic duo that will stop at nothing to take down Whistler and ensure that the course of time is not altered by their menacing adversary.

Right off the bat, within a matter of minutes, you can tell that this movie isn’t trying to mask its b-movie aura. Sure its cheese at every turn, but it’s pure fun and extremely likeable from the get-go. Take for instance our hero, Jack Deth, himself.  Even his name is hilariously used, as they toy with the Deth/death heterography at every opportune moment. Even the characters within the film point out how ridiculous it sounds. Beyond the name, however, Thomerson really plays the role exceptionally well, wielding both a sharp edged intensity about him but a hidden compassion beneath his gruff exterior. His sarcastic tone further layers the character, making him the badass that you can’t help but to love. In one particular scene, where he is invited to a dance club, watching him try to intermingle with the crowd is hilarious. He nails the fish out of water element of Jack Deth perfectly and creates a cop character you’ll love for ages.

Beyond our hero, in her second feature film role, a young Helen Hunt perfectly complements our main man, Deth, as the beautiful Lena. As the one night stand party girl, skeptical of Jack’s tales, she transitions into not only being a competent – and necessary – sidekick, but also the beneficiary of his heart. Their on screen chemistry is the driving force of the film and it’s the personality Hunt fuses into Lena that makes it work. On top of all that, she’s a sight for sore eyes. Spunky and sexy, Hunt commands the role and makes Lena the sweetheart with an edge that you won’t soon forget.

Winding up the trio, our villain Martin Whistler, played by Michael Stefani, isn’t much to shake a stick at, as he is sinister enough to not take away from the film, but doesn’t really add too much either. He kind of reminds me of Beverly Hills Cop III’s Ellis DeWald, in his efforts to mask his evil behind the police officer’s badge, but that might have been more in the role description itself than the actual performance. Either way, he gets the job done well enough for the show to go on.

Looking past the characters, however, the film manages to throw in just enough surprising twists and turns, all coming into play at the right moments. One of my particular favorites is the implementation of the “long-second” watch. Essentially providing a pre-Matrix take on bullet time, it gives Jack Deth the ability to briefly stop time to thwart his opposition’s attacks/ploys and save the day. His use of this device, along with several other welcome – and hilarious – surprises, fully makes for TRANCERS being such an enjoyable romp.

At the end of the day, TRANCERS exemplifies what it is to make a good film with a low budget. It starts with an interesting storyline, brings it to life with stellar characters and performances, and adds the little bits and bobs to bring the film full circle. Like I mentioned before, it’s extremely low budget looking and feeling, but being that it never takes itself too seriously – at times, directly poking fun in its own direction - it’s a certifiably fun ride. I mean, with zombies, time travel, an 80s backdrop and a sarcastic badass leading the way, how can you go wrong? Definitely worthy of taking a trip down the line, I’d suggest you give TRANCERS a go.



-Jon Doe

Follow me on Twitter.

Readers Talkback
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  • May 1, 2012, 10:41 a.m. CST


    by XX

  • May 1, 2012, 10:43 a.m. CST

    Dry hairs for squids !

    by higgledyhiggles

  • May 1, 2012, 10:49 a.m. CST

    This had like a ton of sequels

    by Spandau Belly

    never saw any of 'em though.

  • May 1, 2012, 10:50 a.m. CST

    Helen Hunt nude or no care.

    by tylerzero

  • I remember part 4or so he teams with a sharkguy or something.

  • May 1, 2012, 10:50 a.m. CST


    by Joe

  • May 1, 2012, 10:55 a.m. CST

    Helen Hunt in a bikini in the 1rst one.

    by wattos new hat

  • May 1, 2012, 10:59 a.m. CST

    LMAO had the laserdisc also!!

    by IamHERE

    This movie was the bomb! It had elements in it that you would never see in a major budgeted film. Became a lifetime fan of Tim Thomerson due to the first film!

  • May 1, 2012, 11:02 a.m. CST

    What's up with the pic of Michael Bloomberg at the bottom?

    by Raymond_Q_Smuckles

  • May 1, 2012, 11:03 a.m. CST

    Dry hair is for squids! Forgot all about that!

    by UltraTron

    This movie inspired Assasins Creed and Matrix

  • May 1, 2012, 11:05 a.m. CST

    Loved this film - the joys of a 75 minute movie

    by melonman

    5 minutes longer and it woulda been chopped liver - but as it is - perfecto! Makes a great double bill with ZONE TROOPERS too…

  • May 1, 2012, 11:26 a.m. CST

    Doritos Jackdeth'd

    by Yamutha Fuchka

    This article is eerily timed- Thomerson is the maniac driving the monster truck in that amusing new Doritos commercial. His whooping howl of sheer adrenaline is what sells the commercial. I'd forgotten about Trancers. Nice article!

  • That was the tagline for this classic film, which is a firm favourite of mine from the 1980s. I still remember my friend telling me he'd rented out a video featuring mutants, and my mind instantly turned to some X-Men-style movie. It wasn't what I was expecting, but I can't say I was disappointed.

  • May 1, 2012, 11:36 a.m. CST


    by Wyrdy the Gerbil

    I was younger then.. :(

  • May 1, 2012, 11:43 a.m. CST

    Ah, Full Moon

    by Durendal

    Back when Charlie Band was cranking out some enjoyable cheese instead of the endless reams of godawful schlock he's been pinching off for the past decade or two. Trancers was fun. Not great, but fun.

  • May 1, 2012, 11:52 a.m. CST

    Pure crap

    by Lourdes Galan

    Is this article a joke? This film was terrible

  • May 1, 2012, 11:59 a.m. CST

    fassneto, fassneto, fassneto...

    by Blue_Demon

    Sometimes, the only movie that will do is one that doesn't take itself seriously. Some junkfood every now and then is fun. Oh and durendal, one of the best things about Full Moon was Charlie Spradling...what a woman.

  • May 1, 2012, 12:03 p.m. CST

    Man I watched this a lot...

    by kurtisaurus

    ...back in the VHS days, I'll have to give it a rewatch and see how it stands up. <p><p> Still surprising that Tim Thomerson was the gruff hero figure being that mostly he was known for his standup comedy work, but he sure pulled it off.

  • Movies are getting better than ever!!!!

  • May 1, 2012, 12:19 p.m. CST


    by DrGogol

    "Together they form a dynamic duo"? "At the end of the day"? "Enjoyable romp"? Good Lord, what are the qualifications for writing on this site? Is it access to a book of cliches? Because I can get one. Seriously.

  • May 1, 2012, 12:20 p.m. CST

    Nice read...but what the hell was the point?

    by Logan_1973


  • May 1, 2012, 1:30 p.m. CST

    Watched this as a double bill with 'Ghoulies' at the Brighton Top Rank!

    by LeonardsBellbottoms

    remember the title fondly and the slow-mo bullets but never seen it since..nice article, thanks

  • May 1, 2012, 1:46 p.m. CST

    Beef? You mean like from a cow?

    by Righteous Brother

    I genuinely love this film, and not in an ironic way either.

  • May 1, 2012, 1:54 p.m. CST

    I second that...great flick, but what was the point?

    by wierdo27

    Is there a remake? A festival? No...I was just sitting at home and thought I'd write an article about some movie I used to watch on USA Up...All Night... Slow News Day? If you're gonna do that, then write an article about The Stuff.

  • May 1, 2012, 1:58 p.m. CST

    used to always see Thomerson doing "Stagecoach" on cable in the 80's

    by Crimson Dynamo

  • May 1, 2012, 2:01 p.m. CST

    @drgogol "enjoyable romp"

    by Anthony Torchia

    If he were reviewing a modern movie with that vocabulary, we would justifiably crucify him It's cheese for cheese

  • Both are good low budget sci-fi/action flicks though.

  • Three low budget sci-fi flicks that span the early 80's through the early 90's. I call it the 'ers trilogy.

  • May 1, 2012, 2:48 p.m. CST

    the shark dude in parts 3/4

    by Monnie Knapp

    is appropriately named "Shark"

  • May 1, 2012, 2:58 p.m. CST

    Evil Bong

    by Retro

    The best Charles Band movie by far is 'Evil Bong'. That films is just genius.

  • May 1, 2012, 3:24 p.m. CST

    Love me some TRANCERS

    by Mace Tofu

    Charles Band score card has many misses but this was one of the few movies of his that me and my buddies walked out of the theater in a good mood back in the day.

  • May 1, 2012, 3:31 p.m. CST

    Trancers was a fun movie. But you know what killed Deth?

    by V'Shael

    Sequelitis. It was a bad case, and it was fucking terminal.

  • May 1, 2012, 3:34 p.m. CST

    tylerzero, Helen is topless in Trancers

    by Mace Tofu

    but her back is to the camera : (

  • May 1, 2012, 3:44 p.m. CST

    knew my username would mean something to these boards eventually!

    by supernashwan

  • May 1, 2012, 3:49 p.m. CST

    Beat it Hiawatha, this is my dance

    by MaxCalifornia.

    This is on Netflix streaming btw. It IS totally Blade Runner meets Terminator, but its sense of humor makes it memorable. Great classic 80s synth score too. Oh yeah and there's a fight with a Zombie (Trancer-ed) Santa Claus, which is always a welcome scenario.

  • May 1, 2012, 4:10 p.m. CST

    Loved this movie!

    by Patrick Pettay

    Tim Thomerson is the King of the 80's B-movies. He was in Trancers 1-5, Uncommon Valor, Iron Eagle and the ultimate 80's B-movie and suggested future Hurts So Good selection: Metalstorm:The Destruction of Jared-Syn. Oh yeah, and I totally fell in love with Helen Hunt in this movie.

  • May 1, 2012, 4:16 p.m. CST

    Night of the Comet.........

    by Righteous Brother

    would also make a good double bill with this.

  • May 1, 2012, 4:17 p.m. CST

    Helen Hunt

    by smackmybishop

    So they cheat on Helen Hunt's nudity? Points off in my book. Full frontal or do not bother. She has nice big jubblies and should flaunt them more often. Trancers is such a better than the title used in Australia. This was called Future Cop in Australia when this was released.

  • oh yeah.

  • May 1, 2012, 4:48 p.m. CST

    Talkbacks are for squids!

    by SmokieGeezer

  • May 1, 2012, 5:36 p.m. CST

    how can you not love this movie?

    by mcgillj

    Written by bilson and demeo who went to to work on cbs' flash in the early 90s. Thomerson even played Barry's brother in the pilot. And Bilson god bless him gave us his daughter Rachel Bilson. And Mark Hamill's Trickster which he either created from his animated Joker or vice versa but was a total blast.. so thank you for Tracers, although the review felt a bit less deserving than it should be.. and no mention of the fantastic score? As identifiable with Deth as to Carpenter's score for Snake Plissken.

  • May 1, 2012, 6:16 p.m. CST


    by Marcus Thomas

    that was actually my saturday afternoon fare.

  • May 1, 2012, 6:26 p.m. CST

    Trancers is a christmas movie!

    by seabiscuits

  • May 1, 2012, 6:50 p.m. CST

    what's the point? anniverary? what?

    by Bouncy X

    i dont get those few who are questioning this. "hurst so good" has already had a few articles over the last weeks and months. thats the point, its another article for the column, if thats the right word. as for the movie, i recently gave it a spin on netflix for the first time. i knew of it and the sequels but never watched em....i stopped after about 20mins mins, i just wasnt into it. i think it was just TOO low budget for my tastes. but Hunt was definitely cute back then, never got the sex appeal of her during the "mad about you" years but she had something when i see these older movies of hers.

  • May 1, 2012, 7:01 p.m. CST


    by Red Ned Lynch

    ...better selection and better written. Might have mentioned that genre favorite Jeffrey Combs played the bad guy in the sequel and that Telma Hopkins, from Tony Orlando and Dawn fame, was in the cast. Should have sketched out Tim Thomerson's extensive bad film resume and maybe given a little background on Charles Band and his daddy, because those are the kind of things that make a piece like this fun to read. Still and all, though, this was better. Interesting bit of trivia: Tim Thomerson, Helen Hunt and Telma Hopkins have all had major roles in Tom Hanks starring vehicles. Hunt's no shocker, but the other two might be.

  • May 1, 2012, 8 p.m. CST

    For the longest time, Full Moon video could do no wrong

    by LargoJr

    Seriously.. the crazy popularity of the cheesy 'B' movie parade of titles were something everyone I knew loved... wonder what happened to the company. Eh... *shrug* too tired to Google it. I'll check later

  • May 1, 2012, 8:16 p.m. CST

    Trancers rules!!

    by adeceasedfan

    I think it was still released by Empire, pre-Full Moon, but a great stable of films throughout the 80's and 90's.

  • May 1, 2012, 8:54 p.m. CST

    god alot of you are jus stupid.

    by andy kaufman

    the article is about movies that are so bad they are good or are just freaks of film nature. so comments like " that movie sucks" are useless.

  • May 1, 2012, 10:07 p.m. CST

    Well, if your going to write up B-movies from the 80's and 90

    by archer1949


  • May 1, 2012, 10:09 p.m. CST

    damn it!

    by archer1949

    It posted before I finished...... Anyway, how about you do something on the Subspecies or The Relentless series? Warlock?

  • May 2, 2012, 1:30 a.m. CST

    The Comics...

    by JohnIan

    There were two comic books published by Eternity in 1991. I have them both and the graphic novel which combined the two. The first issue begins Jack and McNulty with a squad of troopers battling swarms of trancers at Martin Whistler's stronghold in the future. Once they reach their target they discover Whistler has gone down the line to the year 1991 (a message left for Jack by hologram); inhabiting the body of Los Angeles councilman, Donald Westlake. Whistler didn't come alone - he brought with him a catch of weapons from 2247. Just as in the film, Jack agrees to go back to find and stop Whistler; inhabiting the body of his ancestor, journalist Phillip Deth; but not before singeing Whistler's body. The mad man isn't coming home. Awaking in '91 he finds a girl who had spent the night before with Phillip, Leena in his studio apartment. She finds his new behavior confusing, not wanting to waste time, Jack tells her what has happened (what will happen). She is skeptical, but is intrigued by his story and agrees to help. Sent from the future to aid him is a package, the long second watch and a his gun - future plasma weapon. Whistler schemes to sell the guns to a German arms dealer, Frau Mannheim. His idea is to have the future guns used by terrorists, they will produced chaos and death on a global scale. Eventually the guns will find their way to a current Super Power - who will copy the technology and mass produce it. A maelstrom he will exploit. At the exchange, Jack and Leena are caught. Just as they are about to be killed, Deth uses his long second watch to disarm Whistler's men and set the weapons in the crate to overload. Jack and Leena escape moments before the warehouse explodes. But during the melee Whistler escapes. In order to prevent further future technology becoming transported, a time jam is activated, leaving Jack, McNulty (in a little girl's body) and Whistler stuck in the 20th century. The last issue has Jack Deth institutionalized at Caretaker Estates because Phillip Deth's estranged mother and brother believed that Phillip had gone crazy, a complete personality change. Phillip being the body that Jack resides in. Forced in and drugged, Jack becomes trapped at the mental asylum. Deth states his case to the hospital's chief resident, Dr. Sax. His story about time travel, Trancers and pursuing a criminal is met with psychobabble. Jack's incarceration get worse. Sax has developed a biochip that blocks out negative urges. Deth will be implanted with the device. Sedated and wheeled to his doom Jack sees Whistler, a fact that only he can witness. Whistler has turned most of the people there into Trancers. Much like The Shadow, forcing his will onto them, rendering himself invisible. Since loosing his position as L.A. councilman, Martin Whistler has become intrigued by the success rate of Caretaker Estates. The biochips are primitive, but effective. No one is immune once implanted. Whistler is creating a horde of Neo-Trancers, a test project. The bigger scheme is to use the chip to manipulate others, others in positions of authority. He has already built an analog interface to control dozens simultaneously. Leena sneaks into the hospital, knocking out a nurse and stealing her uniform. Searching for Jack she finds one of the patients not turned. Earl tells her that her friend is about to be operated on. Leena rushes in with Jack's gun stopping the surgery. Outraged by this latest setback, Whistler sets the hospital's Neo-Trancers after Deth. Jack uses the long second watch (unknown if it's a new one or the same wrist time piece), snuck in by Leena; finds the control room and destroys the mechanisms with his gun - stopping the possessed masses. Whistler once again escapes capture, but not before turning Dr. Sax into a full Trancer; without a choice, Jack shoots her. Leena and Deth leave for home. The search for Martin Whistler continues. As I understand there were talks in the early 1990s for a Trancers TV series. The comics give a glimpse of how it could've been.

  • May 2, 2012, 5:07 a.m. CST

    On the shelf in my video store

    by MrSean

    it was called 'Future Cop'. In Australia.

  • May 2, 2012, 5:55 a.m. CST

    archer1949: WARLOCK should be a definite for this column

    by melonman

    Memories flooding back…

  • May 2, 2012, 6 a.m. CST

    How about an overall CHARLES BAND appreciation

    by melonman

    He was almost a prolific ROGER CORMANesque figure through the 80s, and I've got mighty fond memories of EMPIRE PICTURES releases, even if some of them are just the fact that he gave DAVE ALLEN stop motion work on semi-home movies like RAGEWAR.

  • And of course, as has already been pointed out, the killer line is "dry hair is for squids". Great film.

  • May 2, 2012, 6:43 a.m. CST

    Does this qualify?

    by dancetothebeatofthelivingdead

    Not sure what the rules are for the Hurts So Good reviews. I was under the impression that these were the "so bad it's good" movies from the 80's. Is that what we're going for here. If so, I thought Trancers was just a great fucking movie in it's own right. Now it's been 20 some odd-years since Ive seen it and it was a B movie to bwegin with so I'm sure Father Time has been pretty cruel to this one. Tim Thomerson was bad-ass in a bunch of cheesy but bad-ass flicks in the 80's. The kind of movies that Joe Bob Briggs put on his drive in show on Showtime late Saturday nights on Showtime. Or was it Cinemax? Can't remember for sure, I was just a little kid. Helen Hunt was cute as hell when she was young, She really went South right about the time that her career was taking off with As Good As it Gets. I remember I was in a book store bout ten years ago and there was a magzine laying on a table called Autograph Hunter or something like tat and it had on the cover the ten best adn wrost celebs for autographs and the results were hilarious. The worst was Helen Hunt, the magazine was politcally correct adn danced around just out and out calling her a cunt, but it was there between the lines. All the the celebs in the worst ten were the supposed "good guys" of Hollywood. Meg Ryan was second, and theis was back when she was Ameirca's Sweetheart. Tom Hanks, was there, can't remember who else but the funniest thing was that the two best were James Woods and Gary Oldman respectively. Very funny that the people known for being cocksuckers adn villains were the gracious ones and the sweethearts were the assholes.

  • May 2, 2012, 6:45 a.m. CST

    I'm not dyslexic.....honest

    by dancetothebeatofthelivingdead

    For some reason I type that way on this site. Always on this site, and everywhere else I'm cool. Weird

  • May 2, 2012, 8:26 a.m. CST

    Tim Thomerson rocked my VCR in the 80's

    by Stegman84

    Trancers was a great little b-movie, and I really enjoyed Zone Troopers as well. Just plain fun b-movies the likes of which we really don't see any longer.

  • May 2, 2012, 8:31 a.m. CST


    by DrGogol


  • May 2, 2012, 8:55 a.m. CST

    In dire need of a new transfer. The DVD is an abomination.

    by the_rising

    They took the laserdisc master, which was an analog Beta tape, that had damage, and used it for the DVD.

  • May 2, 2012, 9:09 a.m. CST

    respect for reviewing this great little b movie.

    by Waka_Flocka

    makes a nice triple bill with the hidden and dead heat

  • May 2, 2012, 10:11 a.m. CST

    LOTS of great little B movies from back then

    by Jaster Mareel

    Full Moon was 95% shit, but they had a couple of gems, no question. Puppet Master, Castle Freak.....Trancers........did they have any others? Crash & Burn wasn't bad. Was Robot Jox Full Moon? I think it was.

  • May 2, 2012, 10:22 a.m. CST

    What kind of a name is Peter Gunn?

    by NoahTall

  • May 2, 2012, 11:49 a.m. CST

    Another movie from that era I liked

    by V'Shael

    tho less for the ideas and fx, and more for the dialog, was Spacehunter : Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, with a very young Molly Ringwald.

  • May 2, 2012, 12:41 p.m. CST

    Trancers 2 had my all time favorite bad action hero quip...

    by JackDeth

    There's a part where Jack Deth is at home and his wife comes home with groceries, and someone is helping her with them. He becomes suspicious and quickly realizes that the man assisting with the groceries is a trancer and that he brought a bomb inside in one of the grocery bags.... inside of a ham. So Jack grabs the ham and tosses it out the window where it explodes, the trancer runs in and Jack guns him down. Somebody yells at him (I don't remember the exact wording of the setup line) something like "What the hell are you doing Jack?" and Jack turns to him and with all earnestness says "The next time somebody hands you an exploding ham, I'm gonna pass the mustard." Amazing.

  • May 2, 2012, 12:49 p.m. CST

    How has this article series come this far and still no

    by SenatorJeffersonSmith

    Zapped Again?

  • May 2, 2012, 12:49 p.m. CST


    by thebastard

    Guess I might have to look into this for some cheese.

  • May 2, 2012, 2:21 p.m. CST

    Sci-Fi 80s flicks all used the same props

    by Mel Garga

    Trancers featured those glass tubes with the red lasers that don't seem to do anything other than blink out of sequence. Yes, I watched this on VHS many times at my friends house. And then we discovered his brother's porn collection and watched those instead.

  • May 2, 2012, 2:23 p.m. CST

    As for a double-billing: Give me Trancers and Time Rider.

    by Mel Garga

  • May 2, 2012, 4:08 p.m. CST

    It's July now, and I'm tired...... Real tired.

    by welty69

    Last January, I finally singed Martin Whistler out on one of the rim planets. Since then, I've been hunting down the last of his murdering cult. We call them "Trancers:" slaves to Whistler's psychic power. Not really alive, not dead enough. It's July now, and I'm tired...... Real tired. love this film.... the music is awesome and memorable and the acting is ok... but you gotta rememeber the trancer santa...... great stuff