John Candy plays Harry Crumb, the bumbling son who never quite lived up to the reputation of his sleuthing father and grandfather in his family’s long-standing detective agency. Instead of running the company, he’s been relegated to being a lowly trainee as their Tulsa office. Ineptitude is just what the CEO of the company, Eliot Draisen (Jeffrey Jones), in Los Angeles wants from an investigator for reasons of his own. Draisen flies out Crumb to Los Angeles to crack the case involving the kidnapping and ransom of Jennifer Downing, the beautiful heiress daughter of P.D. Downing (Barry Corbin) and his philandering new wife Helen (Annie Potts). Crumb begins to use his penchant for disguises to get to the bottom of things.
Adrian Pasdar stars as Caleb Colton, a young and somewhat passive small-town guy in Oklahoma who has his eye set on a visiting mysterious boyish beauty named Mae (Jenny Wright). Caleb and Mae spend the night talking and flirting, but Mae has to make it home before the sun comes up, for reasons that aren’t too clear for Caleb. Before the end of the evening, Mae bites Caleb on the neck, although she doesn’t really drink his blood, setting forth a reaction in his body that makes him very strong and agile, fry up in direct sunlight, and crave human blood himself. Before Caleb can get home, he is “adopted” by his new family, a clan of immortals with the same condition he is in, although they aren’t taking too kindly to Mae’s decision to “turn” Caleb into one of them, especially since she must feed him from her own blood. Caleb doesn’t want to kill other humans like the others, but to be part of them, he finds he must, because he can’t survive on his own. Tensions flare in the group, as well as within Caleb himself, as to what the proper thing to do is. Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, and Tim Thomerson, and Bill Paxton get supporting roles. Kathryn Bigelow’s debut as a solo director.
Trancers starts off in the neon-tinged year of 2247, where we find much of old Los Angeles (now called “Angel City”) submerged by the ocean. Law enforcement officers called “Troopers”, like Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson), are taking down (referred to as “singeing”) “trancers”, which are weak-minded people (dubbed “squids”) who can easily come under the hypnotic, homicidal zombie-like spell (“not quite alive, not dead enough”) of nefarious Charles Manson-esque cult leader Martin Whistler (Michael Stefani), who Deth sees as responsible for the murder of his wife. Deth thinks he has taken down Whistler once and for all, only to learn that the telepathic supervillain is still alive, but has avoided Deth (and death) by traveling back in time to Los Angeles in late 1985 with something called “time serum”, where one can go back through time by their conscience into the body of another person in their direct family lineage of the past.
There and then, Whistler hopes to terminate the ancestors of the three-person “High Council of the Western Territories” members who took him down in 2247. Jack Deth always gets his man, so he too goes back in time to stop Whistler once and for all, inhabiting his consciousness into one of his own ancestors, a sleazeball journalist named Philip Dethton, who happens to be a dead ringer. Along with Phil’s young girlfriend Leena (Helen Hunt), Deth is going to be crafty to take down his target, as Whistler is inhabiting the body of his own ancestor, who happens to be an LAPD detective, and has already channeled a number of “trancers” to his cause to protect him as he tries to take down the last Council member’s ancestor, a down-and-out, alcoholic ex-pro baseball pitcher currently living on Skid Row (Biff Manard).