140 Character Movie Review – #140RVW
In preparation for review, watched yesterday with wife. Conversation went like this, “But I really remember enjoying it in high school”…
Spoiler-free Movie Review of Shocker:
…And then there are those movies that you shouldn’t revisit. The ones that looked horribly stupid but you watched anyway and found something about them that you liked. If you’re lucky enough to have that occur, don’t press your luck. Be grateful that you were pleasantly surprised and leave it at that. Because I guarantee you that lightning will not strike twice…
Shocker is a slasher horror movie written and directed by Wes Craven, creator of the Nightmare on Elm Street series. It’s the story of Jonathan Parker (Peter Berg), a high school football player and foster child whose town is being ripped apart by a serial killer who is attacking entire families. For some reason Jonathan seems to have some psychic link with the killer and in a dream actually appears at the scene of the killer’s new crime – the killer can actually see Jonathan. Unable to prevent the killing of most of his adoptive family, Jonathan is able to lead his foster father Lt. Don Parker (Michael Murphy) to the killer, Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi), who is finally apprehended and sentenced to death by electric chair. Through some bizarre circumstances, Pinker seems to make a deal with a television set and achieve some odd form of immortality that has something to do with electricity. Sometimes. Sometimes he’s just body jumping through physical contact. It’s all a little muddled.
The cast is pretty good, as far as it goes. Watching for the first time in 25 years, I was stunned to see that the psycho who anchors the picture is Mulder & Scully’s boss from The X-Files. Peter Berg (great in A Midnight Clear) is pretty capable as lead here, although I never did figure out how he’s still in high school and also has his own place. Michael Murphy is Michael Murphy, which is always a good thing. Also check out “Theodore” Raimi in an early role.
Cami Cooper is the perfect girl next door, one of those actors that makes you run to imdb because you’re sure they are familiar. (Yes, idiot, she’s in that stupid slasher movie you’ve seen 20 times – this one!) Interestingly, though, in looking her up, I found that she left the biz to become a lobbyist then Director of Legislative Affairs for the National Association to Protect Children – I know nothing about it but it looks interesting. Nice second act…
I’m admittedly no horror expert, but I think Shocker may be the first time that Craven really went for the humor. There is of course always comic relief in his and all horror films – screaming and laughter pair so nicely – but this is a real understanding of how ridiculous horror movie conventions are and Shocker dabbles in the kind of self-deprecation that would be so effective in Scream a few years later.
Shocker is just funny. It plays things straight for the first act, which is solid slasher film material. But it begins to get irreverent in the second act as the killer jumps from body to body to amusing effect. By the third act the thing goes right off the rails and is just ridiculous, but gloriously so.
It really is an odd collection of different feels. By the end you can have completely forgotten just how bloody and grisly the movie was at the outset. This may be why I remember Shocker rather more fondly than it played for me now. There was an exhilarating thrill to slasher movies when I was in high school. That mix of hormones and energy, fueled by too much soda and Chinese food, needed the loud and obvious diversions provided by horror movies. This one was supercharged by the pinnacle (or nadir) of hair metal that 1989 could provide. The tagline for the film is “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, and the film features an adequate if unnecessary Megadeth cover of the Alice Cooper tune. Alice himself appears on a background tv set in one of my favorite moments of zen from this movie – the diner’s tv is recounting the recent grisly murders, but when the bereaved family members walk in the staff thoughtfully turn on something more appropriate – Alice Cooper videos…
That scene is a wonderful sampling of the film – terror with an undercurrent of self-aware mockery. When I tell you that this movie was aggressively promoted in the pages of comic books, you should get a sense of what you’re in for. I can’t say it ranks as highly as some of the horror classics, or even horror comedies like Evil Dead 2 or Bad Taste, but fans of the genre would surely enjoy this one.
The Representation Test Score: D (1 pts)
|Main Cast||Michael Murphy Lt. Don Parker, Mitch Pileggi Horace Pinker, Peter Berg Jonathan Parker, Sam Scarber Cooper|
|Release Date||Fri 27 Oct 1989 UTC|
|Genres||Comedy, Horror, Thriller|
|Plot||After being sent to the electric chair, a serial killer uses electricity to come back from the dead and carry out his vengeance on the football player who turned him in to the police.|
|Tagline||On October 2, at 6:45 AM mass murderer Horace Pinker was put to death. Now, he’s really mad.|
|Writers||Wes Craven (written by)|