FLASHBACK TO SHOCKER
WITH MIKE BROWN
Shocker might be my favorite Wes Craven film. At least the one I can watch over and over again and still be entertained by. Nightmare On Elm Street comes close. But there is something so electrifying about Shocker that just makes it so much fun to watch.
There’s an excellent lead performance by Mitch Pileggi who just scorches the camera in every scene he is in. The film is infinitely quotable(“I’m nationwide now asshole!”) Horace Pinker is definitely the type of villain you “love to hate”. Every scene he is in is pure gold. I honestly think he is without a doubt one of the most underrated horror characters of all time. He should be an icon in the horror genre. Forget Leprechaun. Pinker smokes him. Ignore Jigsaw. Pinker roasts him. To hell with Victor Crowley. Pinker kicks his ass. Overlook whatever the ‘Activity’ is in Paranormal Activity. Horace Pinker is the man.
The rest of the supporting cast are equally as phenomenal as the “heavy metal rocker killing machine who never does the dishes”. Especially Peter Berg who delivers the finest performance of his career that deserves way more recognition that it gets which is almost none. His acting in the scene where he finds Allison dead in the bathtub is fantastic.
Speaking of Allison, Cami Cooper is drop dead gorgeous in the role and really provides a great stone for Peter’s sword. You really believed that Peter and Cami were in love with each other, which makes the scene where Allison is murdered even more tragic. That scene never fails to make me cry. Every single time. It starts the waterworks. That’s proof of how effective the performances by Peter and Cami were. You grieved for Allison as if she was as real as you and me. That sequence to me personally is one of the most powerful death scenes in film. It’s power and impact is massively underrated.
The film also has major balls. It not only kills off Jonathan’s girlfriend but both his mothers, adopted and biological, his brother, his baby sister, his head coach, and a close friend. All in one film. Jonathan takes so many hits that you cannot help but root for him to defeat Pinker, throughout the entire movie. It was also really nice to see a horror film that had a male lead again. That has become such a rarity now that when watching films like Shocker, it really feels like a breath of fresh air.
Wes Craven also outdoes himself here with the writing and the directing. He said it best in an archived interview. “I really think the film is a roller coaster ride.” It absolutely is Wes. He nailed the fine balance between horror and fun, and delivered one of the most entertaining horror films ever made.
It takes itself seriously when it needs to with the sequences of real horror involving Pinker’s homicidal rampage and when he starts hopping from body to body and jumping into our airwaves it really turns up the crazy all the way to 11. The film is ingenious in many ways it doesn’t get credit for. The whole concept of Pinker attacking you through your electronics is unique and truly terrifying. And the way the film handles it is brilliant and infectiously fun to witness. Especially the sequence where Pinker and Jonathan are fighting through multiple television channels.(Hey Beav!)
And the concept of using the remote control to control Pinker was really cool. It made it possible for some really wonderful crowd pleasing moments near the end, when Jonathan rewinds Pinker into the walls in retribution for the death of those he held near and dear to him. I also really love that “Fuck you” punch he gives Pinker before he jumps into the video camera. And who doesn’t love the way he blows out remote like he’s Clint Eastwood after one of his infamous quick draws? Jonathan Parker is a bad ass.
I also really love how it handles the character of Allison after her death and makes her Jonathan’s guardian angel. I love how their compassion for one another is what gives Jonathan the strength he needs to beat Pinker and save the day. Some might call it sappy but I love it regardless. It’s nice to see a film with subject material like Shocker still have the guts to show it’s heart on it’s sleeve while delivering the gory goods. The way they become one at the end is genuinely intriguing and I really would have loved to have seen how that dynamic would have evolved in a sequel.
It would be remiss if I didn’t mention the soundtrack. A dynamite album. One of the best soundtracks of all time. And it might be my choice for the greatest horror soundtrack of all time. It’s that good. I like every single song on the soundtrack.
Even the ballad Timeless Love. If I had to pick a favorite track? It would be Bonfire’s Sword and Stone. That track is sizzling white hot rocking bad assery. The other tracks are no slouches either. Especially both tracks by The Dudes Of Wrath, Shocker and Shockdance. Demon Bell by Dangerous Toys is also a nice track (it was featured brilliantly in the film during the inside the television sequence), and Megadeth’s No More Mr. Nice guy is a good cut as well.
You can’t really go wrong with the whole album. I fell in love with it ever since I found the cassette at a thrift store years ago and I own it on cassette and CD. I would buy the vinyl too if I found it. And I don’t even have a record player. That’s how much I love this soundtrack. It was my first introduction to Shocker. That and the novelization. But yeah. As soon as I heard this soundtrack? I knew I was going to love the movie right then and there.
William Goldstein’s score is solid as well. I love how he incorporated Timeless Love’s main chords as the instrumental love theme for Jonathan and Allison. His compositions for scenes with Pinker are top notch as well. The way he made them sound like electricity crackling I really enjoyed. It added a good amount of mood and atmosphere to the film.
I will never understand why Shocker is met with such critical disdain. A 12 percent on rotten tomatoes, a 5.4 out of ten on IMDB, a critical and financial flop, the list goes on. I don’t get why its reputation is that of a low budget Nightmare On Elm Street rip off and as one of Wes Craven’s worst films. People call it “Schlocker” say it isn’t scary and that it’s too over the top. Well to those people? I say this. You missed the point of the film entirely.
It wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. At least not 100 percent of the time. The first half is pretty serious and some of the darkest stuff I have ever seen Wes direct before or since. Then once Pinker starts doing his best impression of The Hidden it really starts to kick into full gear and becomes a non stop action packed ride. If it took itself too seriously? It wouldn’t be as fun to watch as it is.
I am glad it had it’s tongue planted firmly in it’s left cheek throughout the whole last hour of the film. I love it when horror films have fun with the material and just go balls out with it. Considering the plot? The film had to play fast and loose. If it just sat there and didn’t go along for the ride? It would be a real chore to sit through.
Part of what makes this film so endearing and worth watching again and again is its ballsy attitude. If you want to see an example of this type of story truly done wrong? Go watch The Chair. That movie is so bad you will be begging for “The Chair” so you don’t have to watch it anymore.
Shocker is not a bad example of this kind of concept on film. There are far worse examples out there. In fact? Shocker is one of the best examples by far. It is ‘electrifying’ entertainment and one of Wes Craven’s finest hours.
4 out of 5.
MIKE BROWN IS A FREELANCE BLOGGER. A Passionate film fan, he has contributed to a range of publications across the worldwide web.