You can actually smell the VHS off of this one, can you? Wes Craven wanted Shocker to be the beginning of a new slasher franchise as A Nightmare on Elm Street was losing popularity. He had a pretty solid main story and one hell of a villain in Horace Pinker AKA Shocker played by Mitch Pileggi (Skinner from The X-Files). However, the execution was quite messy and this is why we don’t have a Shocker franchise. However, this is a movie a lot of us saw when we were in our teens and have fond memories of. And the younger generations will appreciate the lunacy of the eighties movies’ plots and their strong nostalgia value. Things were simply very different back then.
The first part of the Shocker is going to blow you away with its creativity and intensity. You simply cannot guess where this is going and that’s half the fun. However, the second part of the movie is dreadfully uneven and simply too long. It’s also very chaotic forgoing every rule in the book to entertain you. And I hated those scenes where Pinker almost catches our hero Jonathan. They were so painfully campy and heavy-handed that it felt like you were watching something made for children. Right up until the part where they fucking kill everybody.
One of the main reasons why you should watch Shocker is Mitch Pileggi’s brilliant performance. He’s still one of the scariest villains I have ever seen on the big screen and I have seen a lot of them! Tall, muscular, and extremely fast for a man of that size, he’s the stuff nightmares are made of. And he’s got a big knife. And he’s funny, ruthless, and doesn’t care whether he lives or dies. Opposite of him we have young Peter Berg who did an okay job along with Camille Cooper and Michael Murphy. I want you also to pay attention to the tv preacher because he’s played by none other than Timothy Leary, the father of LSD!
A vicious serial killer is terrorizing the city of Los Angeles. The police can’t figure out who he is and everybody is afraid they’re going to be the next victims. Including Jonathan, a promising college football player who starts dreaming about the killer. However, instead of forgetting these nightmares, he decides to use them to help the police catch their guy. It would seem that the killer is an ordinary tv repairman that goes by the name of Horace Pinker…
There are so many different ideas we’ve seen in other movies here that I don’t know where to start. I’m just going to mention a couple and leave the rest for you to discover. We’ve got the tv trick from Poltergeist, dreams from Elm Street and the body-hopping thing from The Hidden. This mishmash of ideas is never fully realized but sure is a lot of fun. And I’m not even talking about the whole prisoner back from the dead thing. If you want to see more eighties movies featuring this plot check out: Prison, Destroyer, and The Horror Show.
On the positive side, I liked all the shots fired at the religion. Pinker says to the priest “I’m no son of yours! Go pray with your choir boys, you little pederast!”. Plus we have the whole tv evangelist angle begging people for more money. Finally, a bit too silly for its own good, Shocker is solid eighties slasher worth checking out.
Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Wes Craven
Cast: Peter Berg, Mitch Pileggi, Michael Murphy, Camille Cooper Richard Brooks, Sam Scarber
Fun Facts: Wes Craven first pitched the concept as a television series to Fox.