Shocker

September 16th, 2009 by Perfesser Deviant

Shocker   shockerposter 80x120 reviews horror Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Wes Craven
Release Year: 1989

Shocking it is not.

High school football player Jonathan Parker (Peter Berg) has a dream in which a serial killer, Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi), kills his foster family. He rushes to the scene only to have his foster father Lt. Don Parker (Michael Murphy) tell him that his dream was true. Pinker is arrested and executed, but, like Freddy Krueger – who Pinker is nothing like, I swear – that only makes him madder and more powerful….

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(Spoilers follow…)

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Are you talking to, uh, me?

Pinker sneaks into people’s houses and kills whole families while they sleep. He’s pretty anti-social. His modus operandi makes him something of a cross between a mass murderer and a serial killer, something like the visually obsessed Francis Dollarhyde the family killer in Manhunter (1986). Anyone who had killed that many families would have the FBI and pretty much any other law enforcement available on his ass right away and would not have any chance of getting away with it, especially since he went to the crime scenes in a marked van. Anyway, mass, brutal slaughtered is enough to establish that Pinker is evil, even if he does pull a Darth Vader moment by claiming that Jonathan is his son. The problem with Pinker is that we have no details about his life, nothing aside from his mad-dog performance. Why he does what he does, what he hopes to accomplish, all of that is ignored leaving us with the “he’s just crazy” option, which now, as ever, is unsatisfying. The other problem is that, since Pinker can leap from body to body, there’s no consistency in his appearance; while this ambiguity was used to great effect in Fallen (1998), here it’s just awkward. The finale when Jonathan uses the “rules of television” to defeat Pinker is one of the stupidest plans in any movie ever.

Shocker   shocker 2 300x168 reviews horror

See, it goes in like this.

Jonathan, the hero of the piece, is a fairly boring, normal guy. He has a pretty girlfriend, Alison (Cami Cooper) who supports him in everything he wants to do, even when he runs right into a goalpost. I suppose it was the head injury that gave him his psychic powers, but if that was the case I’d think they’d be more common than they are as head injuries happen with an unfortunate frequency. He’s one of those cases that parents use to motivate their children because he started as an abused kid and through love and attention turned out to be a star football player with a lot of friends and bright future. While having a male lead is unusual for a slasher-type horror film, having a bland male lead is not something that is a good idea for anything. Wes Craven seems to like having his males be dull – otherwise why would he have made a film with Bill Pullman? – so this should not surprise anyone. Anyway, after Pinker slays Alison, she still hangs around in spirit form to offer moral support and give Jonathan advice.

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Cry me a river.

Actually, everyone, seems to want to help Jonathan as much as possible, especially Rhino (Richard Brooks), a black fellow football player who, despite his racial handicap, survives the film and is heroic at least twice! In addition to Jonathan’s family, there are plenty of other victims, many of whom serve as temporary hosts for Pinker’s consciousness. The most notable is assistant coach Pac Man (Ted Raimi) who is set up in a closet as a surprise for Jonathan. Heather Langenkamp also has the demanding role of a corpse, something that even her least ardent fan could agree is within her range. There are plenty of other victims too, but most of them are off-camera or aftermath stuff, except some of his hosts. There is a mildly amusing bit when a little girl (Lindsay Parker) tries to run Jonathan over while her mother (Dendrie Taylor) thinks Jonathan is a pervert.

The obvious comparison between Harold Pinker and Freddy Krueger is impossible to ignore. Freddy is a guy who seeks revenge against children because … well … because he’s the son of a hundred maniacs? No … wait … it’s because he’s inhabited by three evil spirits? Uh … well … never mind, Horace Pinker doesn’t have an explanation either so I guess it’s okay. Anyway, they’re both killers who escape justice and become supernatural forces that go after the people that caused their deaths, though Freddy did it indirectly. What makes the retread of the same character insufferable is that, rather than giving us the scary Freddy-type we would have liked, we get the lame, wisecracking version of Freddy that came with the sequels. Additionally, in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), for the first two thirds or so we had no idea who the killer was, in this one, we meet him before any of the other characters. C’mon Wes, if you’re going to plagiarize your previous work, at least make it interesting.

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Welcome to the ugliest home ever.

Or maybe I shouldn’t ask for that. In this one, Craven seems to have thought it would be fun to add in some cultural criticism about America’s TV culture. Maybe someone who hadn’t made so many bad TV movies – thus contributing to the problem himself – would have been a more appropriate choice for that, eh Wes? His idea of this criticism involves having Jonathan and Pinker warp through various television shows including Leave It To Beaver and an Alice Cooper video, which, I suppose, should be especially funny since Kane Roberts, a former guitarist for Alice Cooper is one of Pinker’s hosts. Ha. Ha. Ha. Regardless, having the combatants tumble through a news show, giving Pinker a chance for a quip, then falling into a televangelist (Dr. Timothy Leary) program because there’s no group that’s been given a free pass from criticism as televangelists. It’s more embarrassing than anything, and is certainly not even remotely clever.

Ultimately, this is a miserably bad film. A bland lead with a lame villain rounds out the cast. A bunch of special effects in place of story and a “message” that’s completely lacking in creativity put some more nails in the coffin. Add in the final bit of badness, a weak metal soundtrack, and you have the worst horror film that Wes Craven has made, even worse than his mediocre television crap, and considering that a lot of his films suck, that’s pretty harsh. Wes made a mess.

Rating: Shocker   halfstar reviews horror Shocker   blankstar reviews horror Shocker   blankstar reviews horror Shocker   blankstar reviews horror Shocker   blankstar reviews horror

 

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