Between the genre rejuvenators NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and SCREAM, director WES CRAVEN hit a number of fly balls, SHOCKER being one of them. Large chunks of the film work fantastically, particularly the relatively realistic family killer on the loose opening scenes and the rabid bulldog performance of MITCH PILEGGI (Skinner from THE X-FILES), as wannabe horror icon Horace Pinker. Even if you commit yourself to the fact that Craven at this point is really experimenting with dark fantasy rather than outright horror, this mishmash requires the audience to change gears and swallow an awful lot.

Personally I have no problem with folks turning into electricity and jumping through television sets and in-and-out of host bodies. Set it to some heavy metal music and you’d really have to be a stick in the mud to gripe. I just have a real problem with helpful ghosts. I’m sorry I just do.

I hate helpful ghosts.

Like in THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL remake where CHRIS KATTAN appears at the end all fluffy to save the day? It really pissed me off. In SHOCKER it’s CAMI COOPER our football hero’s (PETER BERG) slaughtered girlfriend who returns to set things right.

Now mind you, I don’t care if the ghost gives some advice or leaves messages on the bathroom mirror and CAMI does look swell covered head to toe in the red stuff, but delivering magic love necklaces and shooting beams of light from her abdomen is just too much for your poor Unkle Lancifer. I really have to draw the line.

To tell you the truth I’m not a big fan of rule set-up scenes either, and SHOCKER has a doozey where mid-way through the film BERG somehow explains the perimeters of this movie’s “logic” to his nonplussed football buddies.

Of course all is forgiven, when a little girl becomes possessed by the evil Pinker and begins spitting and swearing like a trucker and jumps into a nearby tractor in order to run down constipation-faced BERG. I did see SHOCKER in the theater and will always remember the audience howling at this scene. It certainly went over bigger than Pinker’s assortment of BAZOOKA JOE meets FAT ALBERT zingers. (Did the electrically charged Pinker really say, “Care to take a ride in my VOLTZ wagon?”) I know there are adamant supporters of this movie and I guess it is goofy fun in many places, but even if I could recover from the constant channel switching changes in tone and the mixed signals about capital punishment and violence in the media, there’s still the attack of the massage chair scene to contend with which comes off like a deleted scene from PEE WEE’s PLAYHOUSE.

I really wish I could enjoy this near miss more than I do. Here’s to hoping that someday a friendly ghost will appear and tell me how.

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14 years ago

A bunch of my frineds got drunk and went to see SHOCKER without me. They all came back saying it was good….but then again, they had been drunk! Even MANOS HANDS OF FATE is good when you’re drunk!
When it came out on video I rented it, watched it and said “You guys thought that movie rocked???” and they all looked down at their shoes and said “Ummmm….welll…..we WERE drunk at the time”

I cant remember everything I hated about the movie (Probably didn’t help things that Pinkker was a Poor Man’s Freddy Krueger) but I DO remember hating the whole Dead Girlfriend Necklace thing. Too much Love Story in a Wes Craven film is NEVER a good thing!

Amanda By Night
14 years ago

I thought portions of this movie were very effective, but overall, it’s kind of a dud. I remember very little now but I think I was shocked when his girlfriend got killed.

This is very similar to a movie which I think is called the Horror Show with Brion James. Both actors are badasses, but Brion would beat the living shit out of Skinner!

14 years ago

Are you sure you hate ALL helpful ghosts?  Even when their necks are completely ripped open?  And when their helpfulness consists of suggestions of suicide?  I think you know who I’m talking about…

BTW, a really excellent paper read-y thing-y that involves ghosts and ultimately, helpful ghosts, is Greg Bear’s PSYCHLONE.  His other ghost story, DEAD LINES, is also truly fantastic and would make an awesome movie.  More so than SHOCKER, evidently.

Jeff Allard
14 years ago

I’m embarrassed to say that I thought Shocker was a real tour de force when I first saw it in the theaters! I don’t think I was drunk but I was in college and I did keep a pretty steady buzz going back then. But I saw it alone, came back to the dorm to rave about it and then had to catch shit about it when everyone rushed out to see it on my say-so and hated it. When I finally saw it again with a clearer head, I did feel pretty sheepish about my initial reaction. But oh well, it was fun for awhile to think that Craven had knocked one out of the park again. And I do still have a soft spot for the movie.

14 years ago

I put money on the fact you had AT LEAST a 6 pack in ya, Jeff!

Like someone else pointed out, SHOCKER had the misfortune of coming out the same time as THE HORROR SHOW….and they were both pretty much the same damn thing! And I hated them both!

SHOCKER had a really good soundtrack though with people like ALICE COOPER, IGGY POP, MEGADETH and KISS on there. I still have it on CD and it still holds up, I play it every once in awhile!

“He’s A Killing Machine……. And He Never Does The Dishes!”  – ALICE COOPER – SHOCKDANCE Lyrics