As I near the end of my Wes Craven theatrical film list, I finally reach a film that I’ve been meaning to check out for a number of years, but never found the time to do so. I didn’t want to see Shocker because of Wes Craven’s name, though. No, I wanted to see it because Mitch Pileggi is in it, and I loved him as Skinner on The X-Files.
If I compared Shocker to the first Nightmare on Elm Street, you would get the connection almost instantly. Then I could compare it to Elm Street 2, and you’d probably groan. Finally, I’d take it one step further and toss in Jason Goes To Hell, and you’d just throw your hands up in the air with disgust.
Jonathan Parker is your typical high school football player. He has a sexy girlfriend, and a great family, despite his parents being divorced and his dad being a local cop. Then he hits his head on a goal post, and dreams of his mom and sister being murdered by the local serial killer, Horace Pinker. He wakes to a phone call that his mom and sister are actually dead, and a wild chase with the cops ensues. Pinker gets caught, and is sent to the electrical chair, but not before he prays to an electric demon which ultimately saves him from death, and allows him to jump bodies as he seeks revenge against Jonathan.
My knowledge of Wes Craven’s personal life is slim. I don’t know if he dropped a lot of acid before writing and filming this script, but, my God, this is the most randomly bizarre film I’ve seen. It has the typical Craven trappings, some returning actors from his other projects, and one of the craziest, nonsensical finales I have ever seen.
Yet, I love the ride that Shocker delivers. It is 109 minutes of insanity. The plot I described is only the first 30 minutes, if that. The first 15 minutes fly by, with enough stuff going on that it feels like 45 minutes worth of story has gone by. Once the body hopping starts, the film just unleashes the zany.
Mitch Pileggi is batshit crazy in this film. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in anything besides The X-Files, but he’s another beast in this project. He’s snarky and crude, and I enjoy the hell out of his slightly over the top performance. The rest of the cast really gives it their all as well.
Obviously Shocker is from 1989, so the special effects aren’t great. Pinker jumping bodies is comical, but the Blu-ray transfer from Scream Factory is superb. There are a few scenes in the finale that are a mess, though, because of the way things are going down.
I see Shocker as a love it or hate it film. It’s crazy, weird, and nothing like I thought it was going to be. That said, man, did I enjoy the hell out of it. After a few duds from Craven recently, this was a breath of fresh air, with just enough camp to help the tone. Oh, and the gore level in the first thirty minutes or so is top notch.
Chris was raised on horror films, which gave him a deep love for the genre, especially its most quirky and offbeat titles (like A Nightmare on Elm Street 2). This love quickly turned into an obsession for cinema in 1997, when he decided he needed to see every major theatrical release. Video games (JRPGs), reading (anything but fantasy), and reality television (Survivor) are just some of his other passions. He’s been with Cinefessions since 2013, and has been writing reviews all over the internet for the past twelve years.