Thursday, October 9, 2014


It’s amazing to me how easy it was for audiences to suspend disbelief back before the turn of the century.  Whether it was inserting a McGuffin plot devise or just some magical reason why something came to be, moviegoers didn’t seem to call foul when these concepts were presented.  Transferring ones soul or consciousness seemed to be of the norm back in the 80s as I can think of a few films, which were big hits that used that bit of an idea.  Movies like 1986’s Deadly Friend, 1988’s Child’s Play and 1989’s The Horror Show were a few which used that plot device.  So, knowing that the notion was a tried-and-true subplot that wouldn’t be scoffed at, Universal Pictures, in association with Carolco Pictures, released the Wes Craven film, Shocker.

Written and directed by Craven, it was here that his A Nightmare on Elm Street credentials began to peter out.  Although I enjoyed the film when it was released back in ’89—and still do—the 90s were about to begin and moviegoers were starting to tire of the typical horror films of the 1980s.  Not only that, butShocker almost seemed like a rip-off of Craven’s Nightmare film, so it was perceived by some that Craven was only recycling his idea from 1984.

Now, the latter part of this decade was big for me and a time I’ll never forget…uh…never mind.  I don’t want to seem redundant in my nostalgic waxing.  So I’ll just say that when I look back to these times, I remember how excited and anxious I’d been when watching these types of films in the theater, even when going with large groups of friends.  So, nowadays, when throwing these movies on my Blu-Ray player, I feel that the flicks are laughable and I’m sometimes embarrassed to let my wife see them.  Luckily, she has no interest in horror films, but every so often she’ll walk by while I have one of these gems on.  It seems like she always happens to come in right when some ridiculous part of the movie is on, too.  When I was watching The Return of the Living Dead, she walks in during Linnea Quigley’s nude dance scene on top of the grave or while I was viewingRe-Animator, she happens by as Dr. Hill’s body-less head is attempting cunnilingus on Megan.  I don’t know…my wife’s timing is uncanny. 

One thing about Shocker is something that I had noticed way back at the time of release and that was the similarities to the movie,The Horror Show.  Now, I discussed that film back in December of 2013 (which you can read here) and went over that little bit of peculiarity in the timing of both releases.  I’ve tried researching the films to see if there were any double sales that writers may have made, selling the story to two studios, but I didn’t find anything like that.  Besides, Craven wrote this one, solely, so we’ll just go from there.

A serial killer is on the loose in Los Angeles and Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi) becomes the prime
suspect by the lead detective, Lt. Don Parker (Michael Murphy).  After Pinker kills Parker’s wife and foster children, Parker’s surviving foster son, Jonathan (Peter Berg), seems to have a strange connection to Pinker as he has a vivid dream of where the killer’s hideout is and, upon waking up, leads his foster father and the police department to the location.  After escaping the police and later trying to kill Jonathan, Pinker is arrested and sentenced to die by the electric chair.  When the day comes and the switch is thrown, Pinker’s soul is converted into pure electric energy and is able to possess other people’s bodies, jumping from one to another.  Since Jonathan is the only one who discovers that Pinker is still alive in some energized force and able to take over other individuals, he must try and find a way to stop and defeat Pinker for good.

Yeah, I know…it’s a pretty contrived plot, isn’t it?  But people accepted it back then and it wasn’t ridiculed whatsoever—not even by me. 

Now, I’d discussed a bit about the likeness to The Horror Show, but there’s actually a lot more in common with A Nightmare on Elm Street.  Both films feature a serial killer who—after death—is able to go into a different realm other than the real world, both include a main character having nightmares featuring said serial killer, and both include a plan to get the killer back into the real world to find a way to defeat them.  I’m sure there are a few more things that I’d missed, but those are the main glaring issues one may see with the movie.  Considering that Wes Craven wrote and directed both movies, it kind of makes him look like he didn’t really try that hard to write this story.  Even the whole concept of an evil entity jumping from one body to another, possessing each one, is recycled as well from the film, The Hidden.

Don’t get me wrong, I know I’d pointed out quite a few issues from the film, but they’re not really complaints.  More or less, those items of note are more attention-grabbing than anything else.  But the movie, as a whole, seems to be an interesting concept that wasn’t fleshed out enough to be made into a good horror movie.  So in that respect, I feel The Horror Show was a bit better.

It’s a shame this film didn’t fare a bit better as it had potential to go on as a pretty good franchise.  The character of Horace Pinker was ripe to add as another horror icon to the mantel of slasher killers.  He was very memorable in the outfit he ends up wearing throughout most of the movie and what’s seen on the movie poster.  Much like Bruce Lee will be remembered for that yellow jumpsuit in the never-completed (by Lee anyway) Game of Death, Pinker will be remembered by horror aficionados for his orange jumpsuit with the checkered pattern across the chest.  I know that’s a weird comparison, comparing this little-known slasher flick to the Kung Fu icon, Bruce Lee, but it came to mind first and I went with it.

So, what’s my final “bit” onShocker?

Altogether, this is a fun horror flick, which, surprisingly, is taken pretty seriously as it goes along.  Having not too much humor might be a slight downfall, but there’s actually enough to make the average horror fan enjoy this late 80s gem and it’s probably the last of Craven’s fun flicks until he wrote and directedScream seven years later.  My advice is to rent this during this silly season of horror, turn off your brain and take a trip back to the 80s, enjoying this Wes Craven jewel.

Well, thanks for reading and have a Happy Halloween!

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