Scream Factory Presents – Shocker (1989)

Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi) was meant to be the next evolution in Wes Craven’s horror odyssey. A bald serial killer who worships at the throne of channel-surfing, Pileggi hops right on board the gargantuan overacting inherent in the role. In a sidenote, it’s an amusing nuance that Pileggi had to mimic the limp of a prepubescent girl who was possessed by Pinker later in the film because she filmed her scene before he arrived on set. However, Shocker nosedived at the box office and Craven couldn’t capitalize on another Freddy Krueger. For what it’s worth, Shocker is a rollicking, albeit cynically synthesized horror-comedy.

The boob-tube hypnosis and desensitization to cathode-ray-tube violence would’ve been a viable outlet for satire but Craven presumably abstains from social commentary for once. Craven plunders wholesale from his Nightmare on Elm Street template. The opening is precisely identical to his aforementioned franchise with a repair shop instead of a boiler room. The lines between reality and REM sleep are blurred. Pinker spews sound bytes that could’ve been pun-intended catchphrases (“Take a ride in my Volts-wagen”).

Moreso than his other films, rationalization and logic hold no sway over the far-fetched writing in Shocker. Jonathan Parker (a vanilla Peter Berg) is a foster child who practically lives in an expensive suburban house all by himself like a Nickelodeon sitcom. A necklace imbued with the omnipotent power of “love” is the only object that can defeat the electrified Pinker.

It might seem that I’m deriding this film but actually I wholeheartedly recommend it. The flickering, low-res pixel version of Pinker was quite innovative for the time. The magnum opus is a gonzo sequence where Pinker and Jonathan hopscotch through different programs from a Leave it to Beaver to a John Tesh newscast to a televangelist set.

Obviously, Shocker should be evaluated with a macabre sense of humor. The Dudes of Wrath and Alice Cooper soundtrack guarantees the film is a heavy-metal guilty pleasure for headbangers and any opportunity to hear a tongue-wagging Michael Murphy shriek “eat shit and die you little fucker” is a succulent treat. If nothing else, it is superior to both The First Power and The Horror Show which overlapped the same premise.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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