When younger, did you have a film that you loved and adored and when you grew up, did you find out to your dismay that you’re on you’re own in loving said movie?
For me, that movie was Wes Craven’s Shocker.
First, a quick history lesson. It’s no secret that horror legend Wes Craven was shortchanged by the success of his notorious creation, medium rare, dream stalker, Freddy Krueger. He received only a fraction of revenue from all the sequels and merchandise that the sleep lurking maniac made in the 80’s (take it from me, Freddy was EVERYWHERE), so when a studio offered Craven a chance to create not only a brand new horror icon, but the opportunity to also hold onto the rights, obviously he jumped at the chance.
So by it’s creator’s own admission, Shocker is no more than a shameless attempt to make money by ripping off an existing property. Not exactly creative, right?
Well, here’s the thing. Despite many people writing it off due to the circumstances you just read, Shocker ends up being pretty fucking cool. An inventive, lively romp, which goes to so pretty wild places, Shocker may not have launched the new franchice everyone was banking on but years later it proves to be as refreshingly electrifying as a quick buzz from an electric chair.
Jonathan Parker has pulled himself up from humbled beginnings, an orphan he’s living his best life and is a promising football player (American, not Soccer) but after a hideous nightmare in which he sees his foster family get butchered turns out to be a terrible premonition, he teams with his surviving foster father to track the killer down. Despite having the advantage of future predicting murder dreams (the technical term, I think), serial killer and TV repair man Horace Pinker is no easy catch. And so a game of tit for tat ensues, the stakes rising and the collateral damage becomes too much to bear. But finally Pinker is captured, arrested and sentenced to death by electrocution.
No… wait… that’s not even remotely true, because here’s where the movie throws off any remote semblance of sanity and shift into fifth gear as the film roars into crazytown.
You see, Pinker’s gone and done one of them deal with the Devil kind of things and the fatal blast of electricity gives him the power to possess any poor bastard he can touch, because SATAN MAGIC! And so the chase begins again, Pinker body hopping like a mean dose of the clap, but now he can be ANYONE AT ANY TIME.
But wait, it doesn’t end there either… Pinker THEN discovers he can travel through electrical currents so now he’s exploding through light fixtures and power outlets and can be ANYWHERE AT ANY TIME.
But wait! That’s STILL not all! He THEN gains the ability to travel through radio waves, which mean he can actually teleport to any television set he wants and simply step right out of it into your living room (predating The Ring by a fair old while) thereby giving him the ability to be EVERYWHERE AT ANY TIME.
It’s breathless stuff, and hugely enjoyable to boot, the climactic chase through TV land where Jonathan and Pinker brawl through numerous channels that contain everything from Frankenstein to Leave It To Beaver is stone cold awesome.
Peter Berg (now a big shot director of fare like Deepwater Horzion and Patriots Day) is nicely dependable, all American foil as Jonathan Parker but it’s Mitch Pileggi (more famous for his role on The X Files) who brings the pain. A limping, hulking animal, hawking and spitting threats and awful puns like they were toxic phlemb, Pinker is a tremendous physical role and a gloriously hissable villain who, despite meeting the usual Freddy Krueger requirements (scars, reality warping powers, garish wardrobe), does just enough to set him apart from other cookie cutter slashers.
Problems? A few, but nothing too damning. Allison, Jonathan’s girlfriend, is painfully underwritten and therefore making “their love” being the only thing that can stop Pinker’s supernatural rampage seem simply silly. In a simular theme, all the metaphysical stuff just happens, Jonathan can predict murders because he bumped his head, Pinker’s powers changes just because they can (why exactly can Horace disguise himself into a vibrating chair? Anyone?..) , it seems not a huge amount of planning went into certain parts of the script. It also has one of the most wildly inconsistent tones of any Wes Craven I’ve seen, bouncing wildly to heartfelt drama, to frantic chase scene, to goofy humour over mere minutes of screen time you really aren’t sure how you’re supposed to be taking it sometimes. But to be honest, to me that just adds to the movie’s considerable charm.
And yet the fun… SO much fun. Cool special effects, engaging leads, a ton of action and a fantastic 80’s metal/power ballad soundtrack (so good I own it on CD).
Shocker may never have gotten a sequel or be as fondly remembered as some of it’s director’s other works, but I love it just fine.
In fact, for a so called guilty pleasure, Shocker’s got me tickled Pinker…