Dir: Wes Craven
Star: Mitch Pileggi, Peter Berg, Cami Cooper, Michael Murphy, Richard L. Brooks
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1989
Format: VIDEO

In 1989, Wes Craven the man behind A Nightmare on Elm Street, tried something a little different to the Freddy Kreuger flicks, which seemed to be all that you could see his name on. Even before the film was released in the movie theatre's, Shocker had been labelled a cult horror classic.

Maryville, USA, and the town is in the grip of fear, because a mass murderer is on the loose. Labelled the "family slasher" the killer manages to gain entry to the victims houses and brutally kills everyone inside, but in such a way that the police are left completely bewildered and without a clue of his identity. Enter Jonathon Parker,(Peter Berg) a high school football star whose father, police lieutenant Don Parker (Michael Murphy) is in charge of the case. Whilst showing off during a team practice to impress his girlfriend Alison (Cami Cooper), Jonathon hits his head on a goal post, after which he has a strange dream. Jonathon dreams of being at home witnessing his family being brutally murdered, but he sees the killer. After waking up he discovers that his family had been brutally murdered in just the way he had seen. At the funeral Jonathon tells his father of his dream and how they can catch the killer, so with a couple of uniformed cops that night they go to the isolated TV repair shop of Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi). Pinker escapes leaving several viciously slain cops, and a home full of mutilated animals and literature and supplies for black magic. The local TV is quick to broadcast the details of the family slasher, which enrages Pinker and he goes on another killing spree. Whilst the police are tied up with the mess left by his nights work, Pinker doubles back into town and viciously kills Alison, in Jonathons home, scrawling a message to him on the mirror in her blood.

Jonathon, galvanised by the death of Alison and his family, determines to bring Pinker to justice, and with the help of his friend and football team mate Rhino (Richard L. Brooks) manages to lead the police straight to Horace, before he can kill again. Pinker obviously is sentenced to death, and Jonathon along with his dad get ringside seats for the execution. Just before Pinker is led out to the electric chair he is caught performing some black magic in his cell and trying to fry himself with a TV set. Still walking, Pinker is led to the chair, where once strapped in he tells Jonathon a few home truths and generally freaks everybody else in the room out. After the electricity to the chair is drained and stops, Pinker is still laughing at them, until a doctor touches his arm to find a pulse, then the whole room erupts in a barage of electricity emanating from Pinker, killing most of the guards and Pinker disappears.

Now the real fun begins because Jonathon and his dad, watch Pinkers corpse disintergrate before their eyes. But the killing soon starts again, but Pinker is dead, how can he still be killing?

As soon as you hear the opening bars of the theme to Shocker, (a superb rock track with vocals by Paul Stanley from KISS) you know that you have a good and meaty horror flick and it doesn't disappoint. The rest of the soundtrack is just as meaty if not more, including Megadeth's cover of "No More Mr Nice Guy" by Alice Cooper, well suited for the film. (We Want More Rock Music For Movies!!)

Mitch Pileggi, who was reasonibly unheard of until Shocker is magnificent as the malicious and viciously evil Horace Pinker, an outstanding performance and is most memorable, and also much better than some of his TV work. Peter Berg, is alright in this role but seems a bit wooden. Richard L. Brooks (The Hidden, The Crow 2) is a stereotypical U.S high school football player and has done a lot better roles. Look out for a young Ted Raimi as Pac-Man, the team geek.

Wes Craven has come in for a lot of undue criticism for his work in the past. Shocker was an oppurtunity for Craven to make another original horror film, that didn't have anything to do with A Nightmare on Elm Street or Freddy Kreuger, but unfortunately that is all that most of his critics could see. No attention was paid to Shocker, the attention was focussed upon previous works. I will admit that I like Wes Craven, personally I feel that he is a visionary and he has produced some truly fantastic cinema (including some of the Elm Street) and he seems to have been unduly painted in a bad light. Without Wes Craven todays horror genre would not be the same, as his unique vision and style irrevocably changed it for the better. When you look at some of Wes Craven's work, he has done it all, writer, actor, director, producer and advisor. Work which includes classics such as, The Hills Have Eyes, most of the Nightmare on Elm Street series, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Wishmaster, that is a pretty impressive resume I have naturally ignored some work that I don't particuarly like (Scream, Vampire in Brooklyn). Considering the year, Shocker is very good and holds up quite well, and is well worth watching, and sit tight for the "Videodrome"esque final battle, with some good effects and music.

My primary criticism is that one or two of the effects could have been better, and someone other than Peter Berg could have played Jonathon Parker.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home