Shocker (1989) [31 Days of Gore]


 There comes a time when I get burnt out watching all these horror movies in a single month. That time is now. I just… this was a hard one to get through. I really hoped I would like it this time around, but it was even worse than I remembered.

 I’ve heard Shocker described as a cult classic, but that can’t be right. It’s about a serial killer who gets transformed into pure energy after he’s fried in the electric chair. The problem is the movie’s so slow, the execution scene doesn’t take place until almost fifty minutes in; better movies would have knocked out the setup in five to ten minutes. For all the time it spends setting things up, there’s very little payoff and even fewer explanations.

Peter Berg plays a high school jock who bonks his head on the field goal. Shortly after the concussion he has visions of the killer’s crimes, which ultimately lead to his arrest and conviction. That’s not all: Berg’s girlfriend is a helpful ghost and there’s even less of an explanation for why he can see her. As for how the killer gained his powers in the first place, there was an inexplicable ritual involving candles, a television, and jumper cables. I don’t need every little thing explained to enjoy a movie, but not a lick of this makes any sense.

Venturing into spoiler territory: Peter Berg chases the killer into a television set for the film’s climax, passing through its screen magically. Much like the scene in Waxwork II, the rivals fist fight from one famous piece of footage to the next. It’s the kind of wackiness I usually appreciate in horror movies, but although it looks pretty convincing it simply isn’t exciting. This is partly because the rules governing the whole affair are incomprehensible… saying any more would spoil the end, but I guarantee you’ll be scratching your head, too.

 Wes Craven, who I generally like, was obviously trying to create another Freddy Kruger. Freddy was effective because he got you in your sleep, something you can’t hope to escape. Here, the killer gets you through technology, which is just as inescapable as sleep, but the transparent attempt at striking oil twice is too much to ignore. I will say Mitch Pileggi, who plays the villain, is pretty damn good.

It’s just a mediocre movie, which I find far more offensive than a flat-out bad one. The effects are quite good, though, and I’m giving Craven the benefit of a doubt. It looks like a good movie ruined by things out of his control.


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