Wes Craven is one of those directors whose name often comes before the title. The man is one of the most well-known and respected horror movie directors even though he has a wildly uneven track record. One of his most successful and influential movies was of course “A Nightmare On Elm Street”, so I had high hopes for Shocker: a movie about a supernatural killer that can travel through electricity and take over people’s bodies. Sadly, as it turns out, this is one of Craven’s lesser movies.
Horace Pinker is a TV repairman/serial killer in a small town with probably the worst detectives ever since they absolutely have no clue to the identity of the man they’re looking for, even though he’s killing complete families from left to right without apparently leaving a trace. Pinker has a limp and is such a raging lunatic when he’s butchering people I find it hard to believe that they don’t even have one piece of evidence let alone the slightest clue to his identity. Especially when you consider that fact that he parks his van with his name all over the side of it in front of his crime scenes.
He eventually murders the wife, son and daughter of a police lieutenant who is investigating his crimes. His other son Jonathan is somehow strangely connected to Pinker as he keeps dreaming about the murders he commits and this eventually leads to the apprehension of Pinker and subsequent execution by the electric chair. It’s a messy execution, mostly due to the fact that Pinker has some never really explained supernatural powers. After the execution seems to be able to take over people’s bodies. So Pinker continues his killing spree and Jonathan is the only one aware of Pinker’s new found powers.
Horace Pinker, he was probably supposed to be the next Freddy Krueger, but you’ve probably never heard of him. Craven, who also wrote the story, borrows heavily from the first Elm Street movie. Shocker also opens with a scene in the “villain’s lair” where we see him busy though we never see his face. There’s the use of dreams that Jonathan keeps having and really feel out of place in this movie, even though there are a lot of them. I also found that Craven, probably unknowingly, channels the much despised “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2”: the male protagonist who goes to high school, the connection between the male protagonist and the killer. There’s even a coach in here who’s killed, though this time it did not involve SM references.
In Shocker the pacing feels all off. It takes about a half hour before Pinker is finally sentenced to the chair and actually begins supernatural killing spree. They should have made that part purely the prologue and remove all the dream-elements from the script. Child’s Play and Fallen are two similar themed movies (with the whole body transferring) that do this right.
Shocker only has a handful of interesting moments, like when Pinker takes control over the body of a 10 year old girl or the finale in which Pinker and Jonathan battle each other in the realm of the TV signal. This was a nicely done sequence in which they end up in all sorts of different TV-programs like war documentaries and an evangelical show.
But those small elements can’t save Shocker from being the mess that it is. As if Craven was so desperate to recreate the Elm Street success he completely forget how to write an original monster without copying his own and other’s work. I expected more from Craven, the fact that a movie about a simple supernatural slasher is so bad is simply shocking.