Shocker (1989)


Wes Craven creates Freddy Krueger. Again. This time rather than invading the meta-reality of dreams, maniac Horace Pinker can travel through televisions. That said, “Shocker” is basically like “Nightmare.” There’s a maniac, a main character linked to him through dreams, a secret that the main character’s neglectful parent is hiding, a major supporting character that dies thanks to the maniac that allows the main character to face off against the maniac, and a final showdown where the main character turns the tables on the maniac.

Seriously, if you know the killer is related to your adopted son and might spill the beans, why invite him to his execution and allow him to speak so long? And why did we have to absolutely know that Horace was a brilliant electrician if none of it really mattered during the story? Why did Horace have so many televisions? Was he addicted to television? Did he believe there was a television deity? And since when do they allow single prisoner cells to have televisions? After making a deal with the devil, Horace is allowed to become a pure electrical demon that can not only travel through electric devices, but can also possess other human beings.

His annoying son Jonathan who happens to be a football player with the near perfect life, learns that he can dream about Horace and figure out where he’ll be next. When he helps to catch Horace and goes on a consequence free vigilante mission, Horace strikes back by killing his girlfriend in cold blood. Distraught, Jonathan is untarnished and decides to bring down Horace, and revels in his final moments of execution. So does the Pinker blood line possess powers? Pinker makes a deal with the devil, Jonathan can dream about his dad, so could his mom fly? Was Nancy Thompson somehow related to the Pinkers since she too could fight Krueger in her dreams? I know. That’s a stretch.

Nancy was clever and smart, while Jonathan is kind of a doofus. As much as Craven tries to sell Horace Pinker as this new wave maniac that could roll with Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, in the horror realm he’d be holding their coats. At best. Mitch Pileggi can be intimidating and terrifying when playing a regular Joe, so Craven’s efforts to exaggerate his creepy quirks fail. It’s tough to fear a maniac that has a limp. It just is. Cruel as it sounds, how can you really be scared of a manic you can outrun and hobble by tripping him with your foot? When Pinker manages to survive the execution, the TV deity allows him the power to transfer his soul in to anyone he touches.

So Pinker becomes a faceless monster that Jonathan desperately tries to foil and bring down before he continues his reign of terror. “Shocker” is one of the goofier Craven horror movies ever released, and that’s saying a lot considering he directed “Vampire in Brooklyn.” Horace is never a menacing enough villain, especially when Craven delivers the big finale in which Jonathan and dad Horace do battle and chase one another through different television worlds, disrupting their meta-realities. Neither horror, nor comedy, “Shocker” is silly and incredibly middle of the road Craven, who’d continue cloning Freddy Krueger hoping for the same success.