Shocker (1989)


By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Serial killer becomes electric.

Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi) is a serial killer who’s dabbled in black magic, which allows him to kill people without getting caught. Lt. Don Parker (Michael Murphy) is trying to track him down and when he starts to get too close Horace then kills Parker’s family. Parker’s adopted son Jonathan (Peter Berg), who was not present when the murders occurred, begins to have visions where he appears as Horace is committing the atrocities and he uses his new found ability to track Pinker down and eventually get him arrested, but Horace continues to dabble in black magic even in his jail cell, which allows him to survive the electric chair and go on killing people by entering into the bodies of his latest victims.

I couldn’t help but feel as I watched this that writer/director Wes Craven, in his drive to create another Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, completely sold out on this one by writing a script with a voodoo logic that may satisfy a 13-year-old, but will send any discerning adult’s head spinning. For one thing there is no real explanation of how this sleazy, low-life chump that works as a TV repair man was able to attain the powers that he does and simply saying he ‘dabbled in black magic’ says nothing as many other people have done the same, but never achieved these same cataclysmic results.

There is also the issue of Jonathan’s girlfriend’s necklace being the one thing that can supposedly ‘stop’ Horace, but why as this is nothing more than a flimsy piece of jewelry made by humans. And since when do spirits, evil or otherwise come connected with physical defects as Horace continues to walk around with the limp that he had in his old body even when he goes into someone else’s. Clearly this thing is making up its own rules as it goes along and proceeds to get even more convoluted until it gets downright confusing by the end.

Berg is a complete bore in the lead and it’s easy to see why he subsequently left acting and got into directing of which he has had better success. The role of Pinker isn’t any better, but this is more because of the way the character is written. Having a bad guy behave like a one-dimensional psycho killing machine isn’t scary or interesting and a background to the character was needed, but never comes.

The part where Pinker and Jonathan get stuck inside an episode of ‘Leave it to Beaver’ is funny as is the segment where Pinker inhabits the body of a 6-year-old girl, but otherwise it’s a complete mess. Normally it would’ve been a career killer for most directors, but it still managed to make enough money at the box office to keep Craven’s name off the studio’s black list and the film that he did after this The People under the Stairs is considered by many to be a vast improvement.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: October 27, 1989

Runtime: 1Hour 51Minutes

Rated R

Director: Wes Craven

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

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