On October 2nd, at 6:45 a.m., mass murderer Horace Pinker was put to death... Now he's really mad. Master of horror Wes Craven (Scream, The Last House on the Left, A Nightmare on Elm Street) 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 transforms into a terrifying energy source. Only young athlete Jonathan Parker, 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.
In the film SHOCKER, Johnathan Parker is a local football star, who, although his small Ohio town has been captivated by the 9 month killing spree by an unknown Serial Killer, remains unaffected. However, that all changes when the killer in question, strikes at home, when Jonathan's foster siblings, and mother are killed by his hand. This shakes Jonathan. Not just because they were murdered, but because he had dreamed about the event prior to it occurring. And the details seen in the dream - exactly as they happened. Following the tragedy, Johnathan relays the details to his father, Donald, who just happens to be a Sargent on the local Police force. Despite trailing the killer. who has a liking of murdering families, for some time, Donald and his team have been unable to identify the man. However, with the help of Jonathan, who recalls his name from the dream, are finally able to name the suspect. His name? Horace Pinker, a local TV repairman. As the Police get closer to nabbing him, he is able to elude them, and continue his ways. However, when Johnathan's name, and the information of his Police involvement, hit the airwaves, Pinker catches wind of it, and soon sets his sights on Jonathan and those closest to him. This is when the repairman hones in on Alison, Jonathan's girlfriend, and it is not long before she becomes another casualty, in the long line of victims for Pinker. Following Alison's death, Jonathan finds himself, even more determined to bring down Pinker, and by using his mysterious connection with the killer, via his dreams, he is able to finally help his father and the force put Horace Pinker on lockdown - thus sending him to Death Row. The film then takes us to sometime later. It is the day that Horace Pinker is set to be put to death by the electric chair. There, among the group of witnesses gathered, are both Jonathan, and Donald Parker. They are there to witness, what they assume would be a routine execution. However, in true Horror movie fashion, that, of course, would not be the case. Because, prior to going to the chair, Pinker, known for participating in animal sacrifice, and black magic, made an unholy pact with something evil. We find just what that would entail, when Pinker doesn't die naturally after being electrocuted, in fact, he is able to harness the power of the electricity, with evil intention. He is also able to zap, in an out of people's bodies, with the purpose of possessing them. Following the crazy event, officials believe Horace Pinker to be dead, but the savvy Jonathan knows otherwise. As it turns out, Jonathan is correct, as the rash of brutal killings continue. With these further slayings coming to be identified as "copycat" murders, it isn't long before Parker himself is fingered as the culprit. Because after all, it was Jonathan whom was most familiar with Pinker's crimes. As Jonathan struggles to prove his innocence, his battle with Pinker continues, both in TV land, and in the real world. It is a battle that seems not to be won by the teen, seeing as Pinker is just too powerful. But eventually, with the help of Alison, who arrives to him in spirit-form, and the help of his High School pals, Jonathan is able to come up with a plan to defeat Pinker, utilizing the laws of electricity, thus hopefully trapping the electrified killer, within a realm, which he cannot escape.
After a stint in the music business, Executive Producer Shep Gordon, after trying his hand at producing a few Arthouse films, ventured on to the genre of Horror. He was able to secure the funds, and wanted to make a few Horror films that would recoup his previous loses. That is when he got into contact with the two biggest names in Horror at the time. The two being, of course John Carpenter, and Wes Craven. He basically told them that they had free reign to do what they wanted, While Carpenter went on to do PRINCE OF DARKNESS, Craven presented this film, 1989's SHOCKER.
Inspired by a true life story involving a real life serial killer, who abducted his victims, while driving a dingy old van, Craven was able to spin the little detail into an original story. A story about a man named Horace Pinker, who was not only a TV repairman, but someone who also moonlighted as a Serial Killer, with a specialty of slaughtering households. Just as he did in 1984, with his Horror masterpiece, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, here, he was able to use a real story in order to create a story, and a villain, both fascinating and vivid. In short, he wanted the character of Horace Pinker to be his next "Freddy Krueger". And seeing as Horace possesses similar traits, such as the quick wit, and undeniable intimidation factor, this was apparent from the beginning. This film was obviously intended to be the start of a new franchise, and as we learn via the interview with Mitch Pileggi(Horace Pinker"), that is included with this release, that notion seems to have been true. Horace was indeed intended to return at some point, but for whatever reason, he did not.
So why didn't Horace Pinker make the rounds for many films to follow after this one? I'm not sure. The villain, as well as the story behind him, are both solid. Horace Pinker is solidly built upon, as we not only live out his onslaught on screen, but also, we learn about a bit of backstory regarding both Pinker and Johnathan Parker, that in the long run, gives the story much more meaning. Earlier on in the film, it is noted, that our main character Jonathan, is in fact a Foster child, and that Donald, and his wife had adopted him when he was 7 years of age, after he was abused. The film becomes far more interesting, with the revelation that Horace Pinker, the vile killer, is indeed the biological father of Johnathan. While a lot of people may write the whole premise of this film as being "just a silly Horror film", this addition alone added far more depth to the story than one might expect. So, like with a number of the projects in which Wes Craven directed, the subject of family ties, plays a big part in this film. Other Craven staples present here are both friendship and love. While Johnathan's friendship eventually plays a big part in bringing down Pinker in the end, it is the subject of love that plays a central part throughout. When Craven, in a bold move, chooses to kill off the film's leading female early in the film, Jonathan's girlfriend, Alison. She may leave in a mortal sense, but her spirit still guides Johnathan through his battle. Craven always used his Horror platform in order to present us with strong female characters, and here, the character of Alison is no different. Personally, aside from Horace Pinker, the film's villain, I would say that my favorite character in the film, is in fact, Alison.
But while SHOCKER is a film which plays out pretty solidly almost, all around, for the most, part, it is one that is not without it's flaws. The whole thing involving Johnathan's dreams foretelling future events, is initially, somewhat confusing, and could be considered as being "too much" like ELM STREET in that aspect. Another thing is the ambiguity of whether a victim, lives or dies after Pinker leaves their body. There are multiple scenes which see Pinker leave a victim's body, only to leave their body just lying there. So, what is it? Do they live, or are they dead? We never know, as the film never elaborates. This is just a little, tiny discrepancy. Who knows, maybe it was something that was left vague, intentionally? But whatever the case may be - it is something to think about. But with this said, my biggest complaint when it comes to SHOCKER, has always been the length of the film. Running at just under 110 minutes, I feel that the film itself, runs a little too long. While the initial half of the film runs smoothly, it is in later portions, and as it nears the end, that the film begins to slow its pace, thus dragging on a little. I feel that the film could have used a little trim in order to flow better, and felt that the journey to get to the point in which Johnathan and friends finally discover a way to defeat Pinker, was a little too complicated, thus dulling things a bit.
But beyond this, I loved the whole setup, and its accompanying story and characters. Both Peter Berg and Cami Cooper stand out as the film's 2 leads, "Jonathan Parker" and "Alison" respectively. They presented 2 characters that we are able to get behind and support. As I said, I really liked the "Alison" character(especially in her "spirit state"). I had forgotten just how pretty Cami Cooper was in this film, but it's true. It isn't too difficult to fall for her here. With all things considered, SHOCKER isn't a perfect film, but for the most part, it is pretty entertaining, nonetheless.
This Collector's Edition from SCREAM! FACTORY includes a wealth of new special features, including a new commentary track with SHOCKER'S Director Of Photography Jacques Haitkin, Co-Producer Robert Engelman And Composer William Goldstein, as well as 4 newly produced interview featurettes, in addition to a vintage "making of segment". Also rounding out the release is the inclusion of the film's Trailer/TV, and Radio spots, a storyboard, and still gallery. As for the release itself, the film both looks and sounds great in high definition. I was surprised to see that the color is much more vibrant than that of the previous DVD release.
Details about each of the featurettes are below :
"Cable Guy - An Interview with Actor Mitch Pileggi" (17m 36s) :
"Horace Pinker himself, Actor Mitch Pileggi, who is now known for his most recent outing in TV's "Sons of Anarchy", recalls his acting beginnings, and how he came to meet Director Wes Craven. He initially auditioned for the role as the High School coach, but it was his look and size, that instead, landed him the role of the film's villain. As a fan of Craven, before the part, Pileggi says that he learned a lot from the Director on the set. And in turn, Craven gained confidence in the actor, thus writing additional dialogue from him. He also turns to the stunts of the film, and Pinker's distinct limp, and how that came about. He also mentions working with Peter Berg then, and Berg's transition to Director himself, before hitting on the subject, as to why there wasn't a sequel. He says that the intention was to have a franchise centered around Pinker, but it just didn't pan out. One of the last things mentioned is the recent desire that Craven had to remake the film. This was of course filmed prior to Wes Craven's recent death - however Craven seemed to have been hopeful to bring the character back(although, of course, Pileggi says, it would not be him. However, he would have been up for a cameo). All together, this interview is a very fun, and informative piece.
"Alison's Adventures - An Interview with Actress Cami Cooper" (17m 12s) :
Actress Cami Cooper talks about Actress Mae West being her first idol, and being discovered as a model in New York, and then starting as an Actress in both film and commercials. She moves on to talking about auditioning for Wes Craven, and noting his immediate sense of humor. She talks about her character, and her death in the film, as well as her co-star, Peter Berg. Other things touch upon are the film's premiere as well as her eventual retirement from the industry, as well as what she is up to now. A great interview from someone who enjoyed her time in film, but found her true calling elsewhere. She still is very pretty, might I add.
"It's Alive - An Interview with Executive Producer Shep Gordon" (11m 57) :
In this interview, the film's Executive Producer,Shep Gordon talks about his beginnings in the music business, which led to movies. Producing a few films, he also got into distribution. Nearly going out of business, he moved from shelling Arthouse films, to Horror films, in hopes of making money. Two initial films were John Carpenter's PRINCE OF DARKNESS, and this film, Wes Craven's, SHOCKER. Other topics touched on are the difficulties of making studio films, and their politics that forced him to retire from producing films. Another really nice, and informative piece.
"No More Mr. Nice Guy - The Music of SHOCKER" (26m 13s) :
This segment interviews various artists who were involved with the making of the film's soundtrack. A soundtrack, which a lot of fans of the film, consider iconic, Interviewed are; Jason McMaster (DANGEROUS TOYS), Bruce Kulick (KISS), Dave Ellefson (Megadeth), Kane Roberts (ALICE COOPER), and the soundtrack's Music Supervisor, Desmond Child (ALICE COOPER, JOAN JETT). Producer Desmond Child talks about how the soundtrack came about as the artists interviewed give details regarding the individual songs, in which they worked. As a huge Rock music fan, I have to say that this particular featurette is a real treat. It is full of insight, and is really fun.
"Vintage Making of" (8m 48s) :
As the title states, this is a short making of featurette from a previous release of the film. In this feaurette, Director Wes Craven and talk about the origin of the story behind the film. Also interviewed in this piece are Actor Peters Berg, Michael Murphy, and Mitch Pileggi.
7/10 Of course, getting the most attention, music-wise when it comes to SHOCKER, is of course the Desmond Child produced soundtrack, featuring the likes of Paul Stanley, Alice Cooper and Megadeth. The soundtrack is excellent, and it does have its fans(myself included). But with that said, I must say that the traditional score by Michael Goldstein, is also good. It is both dramatic and suspenseful, and works quite well, alongside the heavy metal tracks, together creating a rather unique musical suite.
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
As I mentioned above, for the most part, I do enjoy SHOCKER. I enjoy it each time I see it. Like Freddy Krueger, Horace Pinker is an inventive, and unique Horror villain, as only Wes Craven could give us. With Wes's recent passing, it saddens me to know that we will no longer have his creative mind at work. It also leaves me to wonder what he still had left in store for us in the future.
Rest in Peace.
Wesley Earl Craven (August 2, 1939 - August 30, 2015)
Special Features include :
- NEW Audio Commentary With Director Of Photography Jacques Haitkin, Co-Producer Robert Engelman And Composer William Goldstein
- NEW Cable Guy An All-New Interview With Actor Mitch Pileggi
- NEW Alison's Adventures An Interview With Actress Cami Cooper
- NEW It's Alive An Interview With Executive Producer Shep Gordon
- NEW No More Mr. Nice Guy The Music Of "Shocker," Featuring Interviews With Music Supervisor Desmond Child And Soundtrack Artists Bruce Kulick (KISS), Jason McMaster (DANGEROUS TOYS), Kane Roberts (ALICE COOPER), and Dave Ellefson (MEGADETH)
- Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Wes Craven
- 2 Vintage Making Of SHOCKER Featurettes Including An interview With Wes Craven
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spots
- Radio Spots
- Original Storyboard Gallery
- Still Gallery