Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, December 29, 2016


Mitch Pileggi
SHOCKER (1989). Director: Wes Craven.

Jonathan Parker (Peter Berg) discovers to his horror that his family has been the latest in a series of families slaughtered in their homes by the maniacal Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi). Jonathan has some sort of psychic connection with Pinker that lets the police, including his foster father, Lt. Parker (Michael Murphy of An Unmarried Woman), zero in on the killer. But even after Pinker is tied into an electric chair and fried, he manages to stay alive by transferring from person to person with an electric charge. Jonathan determines to use every method he can to finally destroy the monster. Shocker was an obvious -- too obvious -- attempt for Wes Craven to repeat the success of A Nightmare on Elm Street, but although Pileggi gives an excellent, chilling and dynamic performance, Pinker is just not as interesting as Freddy Krueger. The attempts to imitate the Nightmare series include frequent dream sequences, a pack of youths banding together to take down Pinker, and so on. Shocker is too long and a bit slow, rather confusing at times, and not very well directed by Craven. It starts getting boring when it should be at its most exciting. Its sole saving grace is the climactic sequence in which Jonathan and Horace enter a television screen and jump from program to program, interacting with everyone from Boris Karloff's Frankenstein to Leave it to Beaver to WW2 soldiers in documentaries; unfortunately the humor in this sequence completely dissipates the tension. (Timothy Leary plays a televangelist!) The other performances, like the score, are mediocre, although the vaguely intense Berg gives it the old college try. Shocker didn't do well enough to engender sequels. The opening sequence depicting a football game reminds one more of Porky's than a horror film. This is not the first or last film to employ the premise of an evil presence jumping from one person to another but one wishes more had been done with it. Four years later Ghost in the Machine had a similar plot of a serial killer changing into electricity.

Verdict: Some interesting elements but by and large a failure. **1/2.

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