Craven’s Shocker is similar to the terribleness of Deadly Friend.
There are elements of ridiculousness that have elevated it to kind of a cult status—most notably Mitch Pileggi (Skinner!) as foul-mouthed, over-the-top serial killer Horace Pinker, and the rockin’ soundtrack which includes the title song Shocker by The Dudes of Wrath, sort of an 80s hard rock super group made up of members from Kiss, Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Mötley Crüe, and Van Halen.
Shocker was released in 1989, at almost exactly the same time another similar movie called The Horror Show was released. I don’t remember much about THS now, but I do remember that when I finally watched it, I thought it was much better than Shocker. Which is weird, right? That I remember Shocker much more clearly even though it’s cheesier? And even though I thought the other film was scarier and better done overall.
Ah well, the power of Craven, or something.
Shocker is about a serial killer nicknamed “The Family Killer” (clever, huh? Since he kills…families) who is terrorizing an L.A. suburb. The police have no leads, until local college football hero Jonathan gets a concussion after running into the goal post at practice and somehow ends up dream-linked to the killer, Horace Pinker, just as he is about to murder the police chief’s (and co-incidentally, Jonathan’s own) family.
Jonathan wakes up in a sweat with pretty girlfriend Alison, and his police chief father calls just minutes later to confirm that The Family Killer has just murdered his mom, little sister, and little brother. Since Jonathan saw the killer in his dream, he helps the police track down Horace Pinker at his residence, which is filled with animal sacrifices, jumper cables, and lots of TVs. And since they are the stupidest cops in the world (a Craven trademark), the entire crew outside of the Chief and Jonathan get sliced up.
By the way, it should be mentioned that Pinker has a pronounced limp. Only it’s not so much pronounced, as it is dragging a totally dead leg behind him. You’d think this would make him easier to catch, but nope. Not at all.
So then they do the really smart thing: release the police sketch and the name of Horace Pinker to the media, actually saying that the Police Chief’s “adopted” (hold on to that important piece of info) son Jonathan is the one who identified him. Naturally Pinker’s next move is to target Jonathan’s girlfriend, who apparently had enough blood in her to almost completely cover every wall in the bathroom, and fill up the entire bathtub.
But that’s actually not the most unbelievable part. The most unbelievable part is that an entire team of police and forensic experts lets Jonathan walk right into the house to see his girlfriend’s dead body, and not only see it, but touch several surfaces once he gets near her…with a few weak protests of “Wait … you shouldn’t…go in there”. I MEAN COME ON. No wonder they haven’t caught this guy yet!
So now that he’s devastated and blinded by rage, Jonathan concocts a plan to fall asleep and brain-meld with Pinker so they can catch him and arrest him, which actually…works. I mean, eventually, after the police totally lose him and Jonathan make an unbelievable jump between two building roofs and almost dies wrestling him with a knife.
Since this a movie, the justice system works speedily, and Horace Pinker is sentenced to die by electric chair within days. But hey! Remember all those jumper cables and TVs? Well, it turns out that Pinker has been contacting Satan himself through electricity (wait. what.), and for his last request, he asks for a TV…and apparently more jumper cables. And some candles. And black paint. And a few satanic books. With his makeshift altar, Pinker contacts Satan (who actually SPEAKS TO HIM) and asks for eternal life, which is granted in the form of a golden shower … of light.
When Pinker finally does make it to the electric chair, he sees Jonathan and the police chief on the other side of the glass, waiting to watch him die, and then reveals that Jonathan is actually HIS OWN SON, and his limp is due to a gunshot wound sustained while he was murdering Jonathan’s mother in front of him. Huh. Seems like he’d remember that, non? It should also be noted that Alice Cooper’s “No More Mister Nice Guy” is playing during this entire scene. Because. What.
During the electrocution, Horace changes into pure electricity and leaps from his own body into the body of a doctor, then to a police officer who’s taken to the hospital. The leaps continue (the most amusing one is into a little girl) as Pinker tries to kill Jonathan using other bodies, but thankfully that pronounced limp gives each one away. Except, that actually has no impact on the story.
In the meantime, Jonathan is visited by his girlfriend’s spirit, who starts out all bloody and creepy but then eventually appears cleaned up and bathed in white light. LAME! Consistency, Craven, consistency. She gives him (back) a heart necklace he gifted her right before she was murdered, and tells him it’s the only way to make Pinker leave souls and be vulnerable.
So Jonathan tells his entire football team all about it, and they all (including the coach) believe him about Pinker being dead, but not dead, and agree to help him catch the killer once and for all. Pinker than jumps into the coach, and the police chief, and then ends up getting blasted out of dad while dangling from a satellite and ends up IN ALL THE TELEVISIONS. All of them. He can leap out of any television, kill a family, and then leap back in.
Jonathan figures this out, and hires a TV crew to set up a camera so he can trap Pinker…by jumping into the TV himself, which results in the stupidest sequence in the entire film, with both men running through episodes of Leave it to Beaver and fighting on John Tesh’s desk. Yes, that John Tesh.
And then. AND THEN. Jonathan stops Pinker from killing him by pressing “Freeze Frame” on the remote control, that he has…in the room in the TV. And proceeds to bang Pinker up by fast-forwarding and rewinding, while his football friends work to blow up the main power station in the city and kill Pinker for good. But! Jonathan has to leap out of the TV first! CAN HE DO IT?
Do you care?
If you do, I guess you’re going to have to watch this piece of crap. Something I won’t ever be doing again.