It baffles me to this day that “Shocker” is still considered one of Wes Craven’s best films. It’s especially baffling considering Craven has not only pulled off much better genre films, but because “Shocker” is really just a remake of “Nightmare on Elm Street.” A vicious serial killer wreaks revenge on his pursuers through supernatural means which allow him to shift through his own dimensions, can contact our protagonist through dreams, and does battle with a lone teenager who enters his realm in the finale and confronts him. It’s the exact same film from beginning to end, except it has a much more prevalent self awareness than “Nightmare” did.
That’s not to say “Shocker” isn’t a bad movie. I think one of the reasons why the late great Wes Craven’s film gets so much love is because of Mitch Pileggi’s spirited performance as Horace Pinker. Pileggi is often one to take on more subtle and subdued roles, so it’s a change of pace to see the man scowling and cackling as the vengeance fueled maniac from beyond the grave. Pileggi plays Horace Pinker, a television obsessed serial killer who garners an unusual psychic connection with teen Jonathan. Jonathan has the unusual ability to see where Pinker is going to strike next, and takes it upon himself to help track down and arrest Pinker. Pinker has apparently made a deal with the devil, and his death from electric chair allows his soul to become pure electricity. This gives him a chance to travel through electronics and possess human beings to do his bidding.
From thereonin, Jonathan finds himself on a quest to stop Pinker’s immortal soul, and uncovers some shocking secrets about Pinker, and his own past. Craven’s film is definitely charming in its ways, with a wonderful soundtrack by folks like Alice Cooper and Megadeth, adding to the wonky often eccentric tone that Craven pushes in this horror yarn. Much “Shocker” excels at being an off the wall and absurd revenge picture that spirals in to a battle of wits and wills between Jonathan and the evil Pinker. Craven is able to garner some solid performances from his entire cast, and even has fun with Pinker’s ability to pass through electronics. In the end though, Craven is just capable of so much more and so much better, and we’re left with nothing more than a remake of “Nightmare.” And let’s face it: “Nightmare” is so much better. For Craven completionists and eighties horror aficionados, though, “Shocker” is worthwhile for its unique energy despite being so derivative.
The Blu-Ray comes packed with great features including Trailers and TV Spots, Radio Spots, a Vintage Making Of featurette, a Storyboard Gallery, and a Still Gallery. There’s also “Cable Guy,” a great seventeen minute interview with Mitch Pileggi, who discusses his career, his iconic work on “X-Files,” and his approach to the charismatic turn as Horace Pinker. “Alison’s Adventures” is a seventeen minute interview with actress Cami Cooper, who reminisces about her times shooting “Shocker,” and some funny anecdotes about the fallout from driving home covered in fake blood.
“It’s Alive,” is an eleven minute interview with producer Shep Gordon, who discusses the role of producer, and his role on the film. “No More Mr. Nice Guy” is a nearly thirty minute look at the excellent music used for “Shocker.” Finally there are a pair of audio commentaries, one of which features the late Wes Craven, who wrote and directed “Shocker.” He explores the making of the film, and the background behind “Shocker.” The second commentary is with Director of Photography Jacques Haitkin, Producer Robert Engleman and Composer William Goldstein, all of whom take on the more technical aspects of “Shocker,” offering particularly interesting insight in to film production.