Movie Reviews 255 – Shocker (1989)

ShockerNow that the X-Files are back on TV, I thought it’d be a good time to watch my DVD of Wes Craven’s Shocker starring everyone’s favorite television FBI assistant director Skinner, Mitch Pileggi.

Pileggi plays Horace Pinker, a psychotic serial killer that runs a TV repair shop on the side where he seems to enjoy having hundreds of antiquated TV sets with exposed circuitry running full time in every nook and cranny inside his massive shop. In the midst of Pinker’s front page murder spree highschool football jock Jonathan Parker (Peter Berg) knocks himself unconscious on the field after which he establishes some sort of mental connection with Pinker and can now envision Pinker’s next moves in his dreams. Unfortunately the first dream he has is one in which he watches as Pinker slays his mother and siblings. Arriving on the scene at his home he learns that his dream/nightmare occurred exactly as he envisioned it. Now he has to convince his dad the police detective that his dreams are real and he knows who the serial killer is.

With Jonathan’s help Pinker is finally caught red handed, tried and sentenced to fry in the chair. But Pinker who’s already shown a tendency to be comfortable with shocks and electricity possesses some disjointed connection to an evil force (the devil?). In his last minutes before taking his final walk down death row he jury riggs a TV in his cell and makes a plea to his deity which responds by giving the appropriate ‘boost’. Minutes later with Piker finally strapped in the electric chair ready to receive his death sentence with the decreed giant jolt, the flowing electricity doesn’t kill him but rather empowers him with a new ability to take over bodies on touch.

With his new powers, which takes a while for Jonathan and his dad to figure out, Pinker is once again on another killing spree, but this time has his sights clearly on Jonathan, and not only for the obvious reasons. After this we’re treated to one long, multibody hop chase scene after another until Pinker is finally stopped once and for all.

The problem with this movie, aside from the fairly lame plot to begin with, is that it has more holes than a weekend PGA golf tournament. With one illogical shot after another, the central thread about some tenuous link between Pinker and Jonathan is not only lame, but illogical in itself. Aside from the body jumping ability, the film effects include Pinker occasionally appearing in a stylized TV-raster image that I doubt was impressive even back in the late eighties. We have no real empathy for any of the cardboard characters (even when they are not raster reflections) and the body jump schtick gets tiresome after the first few. Alright maybe that one jump to a kid in the playground was a bit fun.

Bit parts by Ted Raimi and Heather Langencamp are not enough to make up for being subjected to John Tesh, although thankfully he only plays an annoying recurring newscaster and we are not subjected to his music. (A hollow victory). By the time we get to see another cameo by 60’s counter-culture “Turn on, tune in, drop out” guru Dr. Timothy Leary in a facetious role reversal as cash pleading TV minister, I had pretty much dropped out myself and was more than ready to tune out when the end credits came.

I’ve said it before that Craven was always a hit or miss movie maker and this one falls squarely in the miss column.


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