Empire Studios was one of the most fun parts of the 80s, an upscale beacon of weirdness in a strange wasteland of blasé B-movies. My late father loved Trancers and even owned his own VHS copy. At the time, I didn’t appreciate it enough due to the time travel element putting the majority of the action in the modern-day instead of the more interesting future. Now all these years later, that footage of 80s Los Angeles has become more alien-looking than the world of 2247. The passage of time has elevated the visuals captured to the level of Pop Art. The neon-drenched imagery is as iconographic of the time as Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks painting is of the 40s. Also, the synth soundtrack composed by Charles Band is a feast for the ears. It evokes all the best parts of the current Retrowave movement.
But the biggest treat of all is rediscovering Trancers as the Christmas film it always was. I treasure unusual Christmas titles. While many bathe in whimsical Santa Clauses and holiday rom-coms, I binge cannabis-themed comedies and yuletide slashers. However, due to re-watch fatigue, I am always seeking new holiday movies. That’s where the action Christmas titles come in, usually led by Die Hard and the even more violent Die Hard 2, which has the highest body count of any holiday offering.
“…has the goods to entertain all year long…”
Trancers distinguishes itself from the pack by offering two scoops more Christmas throughout its running time. It is like being caught in a wind storm of tinsel. Screenwriters Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo steep the essence of the film in Xmas. For example, when Deth and Leena are looking for someone specific, they ask a trio of homeless drunkards. The winos’ dialogue evokes the Three Wiseman. Any feature that centers on someone who takes drugs and wakes up in the middle of Christmas automatically makes my “Nice” list of holiday pictures.
Trancers is a movie you can show some children, as the zombies of yesteryear are a lot less gruesome than the present-day variety. You also get to show the wee ones what the world looked like in the olden days. 1980s Los Angeles will seem like a faraway fairyland of gleaming spires to those too young to remember the smog smell. There isn’t a child out there who won’t delight by the caroling of the punk rock band The Buttheads. While it has the goods to entertain all year long, please stick Trancers in the stockings of your eye sockets next Christmas.
"…time has elevated the visuals captured to the level of Pop Art."