Movie of the Week: Shocker

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I don’t know if I read it or heard it said, but Wes Craven was once described as a good director who had made some bad movies.  It doesn’t matter who the artist is, there’s gonna be some fouls, fumbles and strike-outs along the way.  Shakespeare didn’t exactly have a spotless record– who remembers Troilus and Cressida?  Who was even aware of Troilus and Cressida?

Wes Craven didn’t write Hamlet or Macbeth, but he is responsible for A Nightmare on Elm Street and The People Under the Stairs, two classics of horror cinema (let’s not forget The Last House on the Left, Scream and The Serpent and the Rainbow, too). Then again, he also directed Deadly Friend and My Soul to Take (it’s just not good). In between the highs and lows are those films like Shocker even fans forget about from time to time.

Horace Pinker is (sort of) an electricity-obsessed television repairman (it was 1989) who walks with a limp. The limp comes and goes throughout the movie, like when Horace is running across a ladder stretched between two buildings in his flight from the police. He runs from the police because he’s also a serial killer who has murdered over two dozen people. Ol’ Horace can solder and slaughter like nobody’s business.

The police are able to track Horace thanks to college football star Jonathan Parker, the foster son of the lead investigator. Jonathan is able to tap into the killer’s head and see what he’s doing. When the fist attempt to apprehend Horace goes horribly wrong, he escapes and kills Jonathan’s foster mother, siblings and Jonathan’s girlfriend, Allison, in a grisly act of revenge.

The second attempt to stop Pinker goes a little better, the police (with Jonathan) are actually able to catch him. Horace, for all his carnage and crimes against the good people of California, is given the electric chair (which he kinda looks forward to). On the day of his execution (he was fast-tracked), he is found in his cell hooked up to his TV with some jumper cables, feeding on the electrical currents.

The execution does not go as planned. Horace dies, but the chair frees his charged spirit to jump from person to person. Now that he’s powered up, his new killing spree is going to start with the one person responsible for his capture and attempted execution– Jonathan.

Don’t expect Shocker to be a typical horror film. Think of it as a forerunner to Craven’s Scream. There’s a lot of funny stuff in the movie, and I think at least a third of it was intentional. When Horace starts jumping from body to body, the fun factor goes off the scales as he jumps into the body of a little girl and tries to kill Jonathan with a front-end loader. The little girl, like everyone Horace possesses, runs with a limp.

Some of the movie doesn’t make sense, such as Jonathan’s friends easily accepting the pure electrical spirit of Horace possessing people. His dad doesn’t so readily believe him, but there must be conflict. None of the head-scratching logic detracts from the pure joy. Often, pure story carries the day.