The Forgotten Franchise of Trancers (1984-2002): (Ch)Op-Ed #15 Part Two

Trancers is a franchise of two halves. The first 3 fit nicely together and are incredibly enjoyable. The final three are absolute trash. Skip them. Pretend they don’t exist. Or just read my review to satisfy your curiosity. Then never look back. 

 Trancers 4: Jack of Swords (1994) Full Moon Entertainment/Paramount Pictures 

Synopsis: 

Lost somewhere in the future, lawman Jack learns he’s lost his wife to another and lands in a new, dangerous dimension, where evil Lord Caliban rules. 

IMDb: 4.6 

Rotten Tomatoes: 22% (Audience Score) 

Tagline: Time waits for no man… Deth Lives… 

David Nutter (Disturbing Behavior, Cease Fire) directed Trancers 4 and 5 back-to-back in and around the same castle in Romania used in another Full Moon feature, Subspecies. French Stewart, Jackie Earle Haley and Ron Perlman all auditioned for various roles, but the role of the Big Bad, Caliban, would end up going to relative unknown, Clabe Hartley. 

This entry cleans up a lot of the characters from the previous entry. Helen Hunt is gone, living her life in 2005 with another man. His other wife, Alice, has left him as well. She hooked up with his boss. Then, his robot partner, Shark, that was supposed to go with him on his new assignments, is dead. The self-proclaimed “best partner he ever had,” is shown headless in the beginning. Eventually, the head becomes a lamp. It’s essentially a new beginning for ol’ Jack Deth. 

The version on Tubi is fullscreen and very grainy, which will make it a fun watch. I recommend another source if you can. As we advance down the line of sequels, though, they become more and more obscure, so good luck. 

The budget keeps getting lower, as the sets are incredibly stale and generic before moving to the castle setting in Romania. There are instances where it appears to have been shot in someone’s backyard, with homemade Trancers special effects looking like a villain out of a Meatloaf music video. And the acting is well below expectation. We have changed genres of music as well, going from the retro synth sound that the series was known for, to a heroic medieval shitty cheap orchestral sound. 

We essentially move from a sci-fi/horror franchise into Beastmaster/Conan the Barbarian territory, dealing with Nobles (Trancers), freedom fighters called Tunnel Rats, mystical diamonds, and the Castle of Unrelenting Terror. Yeah.  

It’s almost like they got a deal on this castle in Romania and after shooting Subspecies, wrote a script around it and shoehorned it into the Trancers universe. 

Tim Thomerson looks like he is sleepwalking through the film, and truthfully, there are many scenes of him either sleeping or passed/knocked out, which could explain his drowsiness. He isn’t anywhere near as charismatic as the other films, doesn’t seem to be having as much fun, and for sure, hasn’t invested himself in the role like before. However, I did chuckle at the failure of the long second watch in the other dimension.  

I truly struggled to get through this. I have read that 5 is worse, and that the two films could have been cut and put together into one movie, but then that would have negated us fools in 1994 from renting two movies at the video store for $3 a piece! 

2.0/10 Stab Wounds 

Trancers 5: Sudden Deth (1994) Full Moon Entertainment/Paramount Pictures 

Synopsis: 

Future lawman Jack Deth must find his way home from the other-dimensional world of Orpheus, where magic works and Trancers are the ruling class. 

IMDb: 4.3 

Rotten Tomatoes: 20% (Audience Score) 

Tagline: The final chapter. 

The second half of the story line continues where the last one left off, re-using 6 and a half minutes of footage compared to only 61 minutes of new footage plus credits. The 2 films had such low budgets, that Tim Thomerson was paid for both films with offshore dollars, a form of currency that, while having U.S. value, could only be spent in the country they were issued in, which in this case, was Romania. I like to think Jack Deth would have spent that money on cigarettes, booze, and Romanian hookers. 

Thomerson has some fun one-liners, but once again, he isn’t really sinking his teeth into Jack Deth anymore, and they just fall flat. I truly regret my decision to watch all of these films. I could have stopped at III and just lied to everyone and said that the franchise ended there. Does anyone even know there are this many Trancers? I could get away with it. 

Much like 4, the version on Tubi is incredibly grainy and fullscreen, so watch a different version if you can. Or just skip 4/5, aka the Xena: Warrior Princess or Army of Darkness of the franchise, altogether. Either way is no sweat off my sack. 

Once again, the “Nobles” aka Trancers, look like Meatloaf’s minions, threatening to break out into “I Would Do Anything for Love (but I Won’t Do That).” That is, when any of them even bother to show up on screen. I would truly like to get budget numbers for all of these films, just to compare and contrast, but I don’t really care enough to do the work and dig deep into the recesses of the internet. 

This was marketed as the final entry in the series, and I find that incredibly hard to believe considering the ending. I get 4 ending on a cliffhanger, but why would 5 end on one if it was, indeed, the final entry? Do they resolve these issues in part 6? Or do they even address them? 

This one is so bad, and yet 6 is rated lower on IMDb and RT? Lord have mercy, I am NOT looking forward to that one, then. 

1.5/10 Stab Wounds 

Trancers 6: Life After Deth (2002) Full Moon Entertainment 

Synopsis: 

Trancer hunter Jack Deth travels through time and awakens in the body of his daughter. And now he must save himself (her body) and the world from a new deadly breed of Trancers. 

IMDb: 3.7 

Rotten Tomatoes: 17% (Audience Score) 

Tagline: Same Attitude. Different Sex. 

8 years later, Jay Woelfel, a veteran director and composer as well as writer and editor of mostly low budget straight to VHS films and skin flicks, helms the final installment in the franchise. The film itself was a rough cut, due to post-production never being completed, which led to all kinds of problems getting the film into large box stores like Blockbuster. It is also the longest film in the series at 88 minutes. 

Maggie Grace (Fear the Walking Dead, Lost, Taken) very nearly played Josephine, Jack Deth’s daughter, but the role ultimately went to Zette Sullivan, who only has 3 acting credits to her name. 

Tim Thomerson would only appear in recycled or unused footage from previous films. His asking price proved to be too high for the low budget film, as well as the fact that it was a non-union production, however, he would often show up on set to help guide the character of his daughter, Josephine. His advice? Act more like a pissed off Steve McQueen. 

The noir/retro/synth score is back, which sets a great tone early on, but once again it’s a grainy shitty fullscreen transfer on Tubi, so we also have quite the opposite tone that I was hoping for. It also appears to have been shot by some backyard filmmaker with $100 and a camcorder. The mixing of old footage of Tim Thomerson and a scientist is laughably bad and doesn’t fit at all. And the girl pretending to be Jack Deth is dreadful.  

This is quite the slap in the face for anyone who is a fan of the franchise. 

Side bar: Why does someone have a handwritten posterboard sign that says ‘Guns R 4 Dummies’ hanging on their wall? 

Just FYI, if you go to the Trancers 6 Wikipedia page, and look at the cast, not a single actor has their own page. That already says a lot about the quality of this film and how low one’s expectations should be when watching this. It is not good and should not even be watched by the actors’ families. Or the actors themselves. Or any of the readers of this article. Or me for that matter. 

It says a lot that I would rather watch Evil Bong and all 8 of its films (There’s at least 8 but I think there’s a crossover and God only knows what else) than watch this toilet clogger of a turd. 

0.5/10 Stab Wounds 

 

Evil Bong (2006) Full Moon Features 

Synopsis: 

Strait-laced nerd Alistair moves into a college dorm with hardcore marijuana users Brett, Larnell, and Bachman. Larnell orders an old giant bong that proves to have strange magical powers. Smoking said bong sends a person to a bizarre drugged-out alternate realm from which there is no easy escape. 

IMDb: 3.9 

Rotten Tomatoes: 38% (Audience Score) 

Tagline: Dude, it’s one SCARY trip! 

The reason I included this film in the article is that two characters from the Trancers franchise appear in the first entry of Evil Bong. “Rabbit,” who was an orderly in Trancers II, and the man himself, Tim Thomerson as Jack Deth, have cameos here. It marks the last appearance of Deth to date. We also have a cameo from the Gingerdead Man, another character from the Full Moon Universe. And the film also features perpetual stoner Tommy Chong and genre vet Bill Moseley. 

My God, this is the lowest of the low. The music is annoying. The plot setup is tired and ignorant.

The characters are annoying stereotypes that not only insult nerds and stoners, but surfers, athletes, interdimensional Trancer hunters, Full Moon fans, alcoholics, Demonic Toys, Band family followers, haunted bongs, white people in general, killer gingerbread men, Bill fuckin’ Moseley, animation, people who sleep with their hand on their ween, bobble heads, girls who look exactly like Betty Childs from Revenge of the Nerds, goth boobs, masturbating Ooga Booga dolls, midgets, higher learning, hair gel, the color green, strippers, old men who look like Brian Cox, cheerleaders, mouth breathers, and super old man weed advocates. 

The movie is so low budget, it takes place in just one location 99% of the film. The only other location is a generic strip club. It’s so low budget, the sound effects don’t match the screen when Tommy Chong tries to hit the bong with a hammer. It’s so low budget, you can obviously see the implant scars on the lead stripper’s fake boobs. It’s so low budget, they put red duct tape over brand name logos on beer cans, and a KFC bucket. It’s so low budget, the lips and eyes just move randomly on the bong when she talks, looking worse than the puppets in the later Puppet Master sequels. 

The less said about this film, the better. There are plenty of people out there that would find this movie hilarious and just love it. I’m not that person. Maybe I’m too uptight. Maybe I’ve just never been a stoner. Maybe people who are high annoy me to no end. Whatever the case, I struggled mightily to get through this. It needed about 60 minutes of the 85-minute runtime cut out. I wore out the pause button, because I kept hitting it to find out how much time was left in the movie. 

1.0/10 Stab Wounds 

Seriously, the first three in the series are a lot of fun. The last three are dreadful. Neither 1.5 nor Evil Bong are necessary viewing to enjoy the series. Don’t be a squid. Just pretend there are only 3 and look them up on Tubi.  

About RetRo(n) 54 Articles
I like the 80s, slasher films, Italian directors, Evil Ed, Trash and Nancy, Ripley and Private First Class Hudson, retro crap but not SyFy crap, old school skin, Freddy and Savini, Spinell and Coscarelli, Andre Toulon, and last, but not least, Linda Blair.