Shocker (1989) Review: No More Mr. Nice Guy
“No more Mr. Nice Guy”
Synopsis: 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.
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I’ll be honest here: when I first picked up Shocker all those years ago, it wasn’t because of Wes Craven. In fact, it wasn’t until I watched the movie that I realized his name was attached at all. No, the reason I picked up Shocker was Mitch Pileggi. He’s my favorite character on X-Files, and the idea of stalwart Walter Skinner being a psychopathic supernatural murderer was too funny for me to pass up.
For those who, like me, came to Shocker without much history, you might be pleasantly surprised. Unlike most teen slashers, main character Jonathan (Peter Berg) actually takes an active role in hunting down his attacker Horace Pinker. There are actually two twists to the plot, one of which leads to an adorably pissed five-year-old girl cussing.* And I was amused (and pleased) to see how well Mitch Pileggi did as a psychopathic supernatural murderer. (Seriously, who knew?)
Aside from Mitch Pileggi, one of my favorite things about Shocker is the tone it manages to carry throughout. It hits right in that sweet spot of purposefully ridiculous and surprisingly serious. Yes, there’s an electric ghost spouting cheesy one-liners – but there’s also young love cut short and torn loyalties. Yes, the entire premise is bizarre – but the main characters face some very disturbing dilemmas that actually come across as creepy.
Like many of the other supernatural slashers that filled the ’80s, Shocker was created with a surprising amount of care. Though some of the effects look a bit ridiculous, they’re purposefully so. (Even a quick scan of the stellar chase scene at the end of the movie reveals what the effects crew were capable of.) In fact, the entire character of wise-cracking murderer Horace Pinker included a good backstory as well as interesting powers. I’m a little sad this never became a franchise as intended, but maybe it’s for the best.
All in all, Shocker is a lot of fun, even if you’re not focused on the supernatural killer subgenre. Give this lesser-known Wes Craven flick a try.
*It’s also strongly implied at one point that Ted Raimi‘s character loves Jonathan more than Jonathan’s own father does.
Calamity Brains’ Rating: B
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