Trancers 3: Deth Lives (1992)

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:


Trancers 2

Trancers 4: Jack of Swords

Trancers 5: Sudden Deth

Trancers 3: Deth Lives

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Our rating: two LAVA® motion lamps.

Trancers III is subtitled "Deth Lives." It should have been subtitled "The Sinking Ship," because at this point you can see the good actors abandon the series while you watch the plot descend into the murky depths of confusion. Let us show you what we mean.

Helen Hunt.
Helen Hunt in her final
Trancers appearance.
In 1991, Jack Deth (the irrepressible and gruesomely fascinating Tim Thomerson) is fighting for his marriage with Lena (Helen Hunt). His obsession with his work has led to the demise of their love life, and it looks like tonight might be the last chance he has to patch things up. So of course, an ugly android from the future named Shark kidnaps him back to his original time, in the far future. There he is shown the dark future that awaits the human race if he fails his next mission: (everybody chime in here) Destroy the Trancers being created in the past!

To do so, Deth is transported back to 2005, when the Trancers first start to appear. Lena has moved on with her life and become a successful journalist who is exposing the military's secret plot to create a new breed of Trancer soldiers. In a weirdly prescient and metaphorical plot twist, Lena tells Deth that she wants nothing more to do with him, and sends him on his way with a defector from the military Trancer camp to help complete his mission. Bidding him farewell, she leaves his presence and moves on to a happier life.

As we all know, Hunt herself left the world of b-movies and went on to star in a successful sitcom (Mad About You) and a summer blockbuster (Twister) before winning a Best Actress Oscar for snogging with Jack Nicholson in As Good As it Gets. We'd call that moving on to a happier life. Thomerson, on the other hand, stayed with the sinking ship and went on to play Jack Deth in two more goofy Trancers movies and a host of other b-movie projects (although, to his credit, he continues to work even after the apparent demise of Full Moon Productions).

Similarly, Art LaFleur turned down the chance to reprise his role as Deth's boss McNulty in Trancers III, instead moving on to perhaps no more meritous but certainly higher-profile projects such as Forever Young, Jack the Bear, and First Kid.

A movie like this makes you philosphical. What is a Trancer? In the first movie, it was a zombie created by Whistler through his psychic powers. In 3, it's a soldier taking a special drug. And in 4, trancers are vampires. Why do we have this sneaking suspicion that if there were a Tim Thomerson fan club, we'd join? Why do we have this compulsion to watch the movies out of order, and why do we suspect it makes no difference to our understanding of the plots? And why do none of the Trancers' subtitles make any sense? Deth Lives? Jack of Swords? What will be the next?

Our sugestions:

  • Trancers 6: Deth Takes a Holiday
  • Trancers 7: Deth's Back (What about his back?)
  • Trancers 8: Deth Wish
  • Trancers 9: Deth and the Maiden (special appearance by Brooke Shields)
  • Trancers 10: Deth Be Not So Kind
  • Trancers 11: The Quickening
  • Trancers 12: Deth Becomes Her (Deth played by Helen Hunt in this movie)
  • Trancers 13: Deth By Boredom
  • Trancers 14: Deth On The Nile
  • Trancers 15: Deth Valley Days
  • Trancers 16: Lena On Me
  • Trancers 17: Squid Pro Quo
  • Trancers 18: Singe You Left Me
  • Trancers 19: Jack of All Trades, Trancer of None
  • Trancers 20: Deth Race 2000

We could go on forever, but then we'd never finish this review.

Credible performances were turned in by the principal actors. Andy Robinson (better known to some of you as Garak the Cardassian tailor/spy from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) was a wonderfully maniacal Col. Muthuh, the new mastermind of the Trancers. He gets to combine two great genre characters into one role: The mad scientist and the mad military officer. Melanie Smith, as RJ the defecting Trancer, didn't make us puke, and that's about all we can ask. Tim Thomerson was, well, Jack Deth. Deth is a one-note role: singe them Trancers, woo them babes, be hostile towards other males. One might think this guy is a gorilla bucking for Alpha Male.

The other Trancers, however, were pretty awful, and how could they be any less with the script they were handed? For instance, how often do you think the Pentagon puts top secret military training facilities under strip clubs? And how often do you figure they do their recruiting in those strip clubs? Well, that's exactly what happens in Trancers 3. No wonder RJ wants to defect. These guys went to the Charles Band school of project funding.

Suffice it to say that if you're into the Trancers movies because of the science-fiction aspects, this is the last one you're going to want to watch. Not only does the next film move on to a goofy medieval setting, but by the time we catch up with them, the Trancers are a completely different set of monsters. Ah well. We can't say we expected much.

Viva la Deth!

Own it!

Review date: 01/13/1997

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Trancers 6 was eventually made and was subtitled "Life After Deth." A pity, when they had so many better subtitles from which to choose. Go back!