I begin writing this the day after Director Wes Craven passed away from brain cancer. It's surreal to sit here and review one of his lesser known films knowing that. Scream Factory follows up their release of "The People Under the Stairs" Collector's Edition" with the Blu-ray debut of "Shocker" in a Collector’s Edition.
In “Shocker,” television repairman Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi) faces execution after being captured for a series of gruesome murders. A deal with the devil allows him to come back as electricity. Once he changes into his new form, Pinker goes after the detective that brought him down, Lt. Don Parker (Michael Murphy), as well as Parker's adopted son, Jonathan (Peter Berg). However, Jonathan's mysterious connection to Pinker through dreams might help track the killer's moves.
"Shocker" is one of two films released in 1989 that carried the same basic storyline. The other film, "The Horror Show," starred Lance Henriksen and Brion James. It was nowhere near as financially successful as Craven's movie. Critics and audiences preferred “Shocker” over “The Horror Show” as well.
Wes Craven brought his obsession with dreams and nightmares with him as well as his apparent love for heavy metal and synthesized musical scores. Dream sequences are used several times during the film and utilized as a way to track down the killer. The actual score is reminiscent of John Carpenter's compositions while the soundtrack is filled with songs performed by artists like Paul Stanley, Alice Cooper, Megadeth, Tommy Lee, and the likes. The two styles combine to give the movie both haunting and gratingly energetic atmospheres when necessary. At the same time, the musical styles leave an unquestionable time stamp on the film.
I wouldn't call the acting in "Shocker" bad. The cast puts their best foot forward while chewing the scenery. The older actors overdramatize like they're in a 1940's noir piece while the younger ones come across as naive and inexperienced.
“Shocker” is rated R for violence and gore, profanity, alcohol and smoking, and frightening and intense scenes. Surprisingly for a 1980s / 1990s horror film, there’s no nudity to be found. Jonathan and his girlfriend are seen in bed together, but both are dressed.
Scream Factory’s “Shocker” Collector’s Edition is packed full of bonus material. Two separate audio commentaries feature Writer / Director Wes Craven and Director of Photography Jacques Haitkin, Producer Robert Engleman, and Composer William Goldstein talking about the movie. All-new interviews with actor Mitch Pileggi, actress Cami Cooper, and Executive Producer Shep Gordon are included. A featurette entitled “No More Mr. Nice Guy – The Music of ‘Shocker’” is found. The Blu-ray also contains a theatrical trailer, TV and radio spots, vintage interviews, and still and storyboard galleries.
Altogether, "Shocker" is a fun entry in the filmography of one of the most important horror masterminds of the past five decades. It's not Wes Craven's greatest achievement but still remains entertaining thanks to a twisted sense of humor and some cool special effects. Craven wanted the film to launch a new franchise. In today's direct-to-DVD world, it surely would have. It's certainly still a movie Mr. Craven should have been proud of.
“Shocker” Collector’s Edition is available now on Blu-ray.