Saturday, March 20, 2010

Wes Craven tries to recapture
Freddy Success with 'Shocker'

Shocker (1989)
Starring: Peter Berg, Mitch Pileggi, Cami Cooper and Michael Murphy
Director: Wes Craven
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

The dreams of a teenaged psychic, Jonathan (Berg), leads to the arrest and eventual execution to a TV repairman who was also a prolific serial killer (Pileggi). But when the maniac is put to death in the electric chair, his paranormal powers are awakened... and he becomes a malevolent force made of pure electricity and resumes his murder spree. Can Jonathan stop the mass-murderer a second time before he kills everyone he loves?

"Shocker" is a gory action/comedy with some horror elements, but it is really more of an action film. It's a movie that teenagers--and adults who never quite made it past 16 mentally--will appreciate for its goofy, brainless quality. Anyone who likes to engage the brain while watching a film will quickly want to turn off the DVD player in disgust.

The film suffers first and foremost from the fact that it was obvious why it was made: Writer/director Wes Craven was waving a bottle around in an attempt to capture the same lightning that led to the creation of Freddy Krueger and the highly successful "A Nightmare on Elm Street" film series. However, where the the Freddy phenom grew out of a film that feels like a genuine artistic effort (not to mention being a damn scary movie), "Shocker" feels like a calculated effort to create another "film franchise". Even as a kid, I noticed the shadow of the marketing machine lurking just beyond the edge of the frame... and watching the film again some 20 years later, it's distractingly evident.

The obvious hope that this would be the "pilot episode" for another series of movies means this film rates among the worst trash. It's somewhat redeemed by the fact the cast are pretty decent actors--I was startled to see Mitch Pileggi in a COMPLETELY different role than anything he's played since--the idea of a "technological ghost", and by the pure insanity of the nature of the final showdown between our dashing young hero and the insane, disembodied serial killer. (I won't go into detail, because if the film seems interesting to you, it's far better if you are surprised.)

Later this year, we'll be treated to a remake of "Shocker" (IMBBPro lists it as "Wes Craven's Shocker"). While it undoubtedly will suck as badly as the majority of the idealess, vapid remakes that so many filmmakers are producing these days, this is one of those movies that could be improved by a remake. IF they make a movie that's viewed as "let's just make a great movie" instead of the launch pad for a series.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I thought the same thing when it first came out; thought they were going to make a part 2. Last time I saw it was 20 years ago, and I can't remember a thing about it.