Master of horror Wes Craven directs this exciting visual treat which introduces a diabolical mass murderer who harnesses electricity for unimaginable killing powers. About to be electrocuted for a catalog of heinous crimes, the unrepentant Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi) transforms into a terrifying energy source. Only young athlete Jonathan Parker (Peter Berg), with an uncanny connection to Pinker through bizarre dreams, can fight the powerful demon. The two dive in and out of television programs, chasing each other from channel to channel through stunning scenes of disaster, game shows and old reruns. A blend of dazzling special effects, jolting humor and an electrifying soundtrack, Shocker is an ironic tale of terror and madness in the video age.
Wes Craven's horror pictures always have a few wild ideas knocking around inside them, and this 1989 slashfest is no exception. The electrocution of a mass murderer turns into a kind of cosmic jump-start: evil Horace Pinker is reborn as an elusive electronic phantom, capable of leaping from one body to another. (This trick is also used to good effect in The Hidden
.) Pinker's a stinker, and Craven was clearly trying to set up another franchise villain in the vein of his Nightmare on Elm Street
champ, Freddy Krueger--perhaps a bit too baldly. However, amidst the mayhem, the film's real subject is the poisonous presence of mass media, as Pinker (played by The X-Files
' Mitch Pileggi) insinuates himself as a free-floating spirit run amok in television itself. In its own pulp way, Shocker
gets at the heart of media-culture inanity quicker than a ten-week college class on the subject, and although Craven occasionally lapses into generic bloodletting, he always snaps right back with some crazy angle on the TV nation. The hero is played by a young Peter Berg, the Chicago Hope
star who would go on to direct his own shocker, Very Bad Things
failed to catch on with audiences (somewhere there's a warehouse full of unsold Horace Pinker action figures), but it's definitely worth a look for horror fans. --Robert Horton