In a pigs eye! The 1980s were also a period that was decidedly uneven for Wes Craven for every dazzling work like A Nightmare on Elm Street or the hugely underrated The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), Craven also turned out duds like Swamp Thing (1982), The Hills Have Eyes Part II (1985) and Deadly Friend (1986). Instead of a kickass film that dropped Freddys posturing ass to the mat, what we instead have with Shocker is a film that embodies all the worst excesses of Wes Craven. Once again, Craven is stuck in dream/reality territory and this time only getting sillier by degrees. He never for a moment seems able to settle onto a single idea, whipping the film off on a trail of concepts left over from Elm Street, the recent body-hopping hit The Hidden (1987) and the old B-movie Man Made Monster (1941) about an electrically charged killer staggering up from the electric chair.
Shocker changes tone at a moments notice and without a thread of consistency. Despite brief mentions of black magic and a strange ritual involving praying before a tv, there is no explanation of Pinkers powers. Nor for that matter is there any explanation of Peter Bergs clairvoyant/psychic link or why the pendant that Berg gives girlfriend Cami Cooper for her birthday should have an effect on Pinker akin to that of a crucifix on a vampire. Not to forget how out of nowhere at the climax Peter Berg suddenly demonstrates the ability to jump inside the world of a tv like Pinker can. Scenes with Peter Berg being attacked by a Lay-Z-Boy chair with eyes, or pursued by ghostly ex-girlfriend Cami Cooper doing phantom dog paddles through a lake and particularly the scenes with Mitch Pileggi possessing various people while pursuing Berg through a park are more ludicrous than scary. Mitch Pileggi gets to quip groan-worthy Freddy Krueger-type one-liners at one point commenting: Its finger-lickin good while biting off a prison guards finger.
By the extended climax where Mitch Pileggi and Peter Berg pursue each other into a tv set, passing through war footage (where Pileggi transforms into a bomber); tv evangelist parodies (with the evangelist played by no less than LSD guru Timothy Leary); onto the desk of a newscaster; out into a living room where an overweight lady proclaims This lends a new definition to the meaning of audience participation; before Berg finally manages to freeze-frame Pileggi and then batters him around the walls of a room by waving the remote control about, before simply turning the tv set off, the films increasing redefinition of the term over-the-top leaves it somewhere up in orbit.
Clearly in the expectation that Shocker would be a major hit and inspire a new horror franchise, a number of other films around the same time quickly jumped on the theme of executed killers returning from the electric chair with the likes of Prison (1987), The Chair (1989), The Horror Show/House 3: Youre Better Off on Elm Street (1989) and The First Power (1990), while the theme was also taken up by the later likes of the action film Judge and Jury (1996), the surprisingly good Fallen (1998) and Uwe Bolls Seed (2007).
Shocker is also worth seeing for the number of up-and-coming names in the cast. As the footballer hero, there is a relatively unknown Peter Berg who subsequently gained attention as a regular on tvs Chicago Hope (1994-2000) and later a director with films like Very Bad Things (1998), Friday Night Lights (2004), The Kingdom (2007), Hancock (2008) and Battleship (2012). Mitch Pileggi later gained a name as Assistant Director Walter Skinner on tvs The X Files (1993-2002), a role where he played with a cool, emotional control at almost complete 180 degree remove from the roaring OTT Horace Pinker here, much to the amusement of X Files fans. There are minor cameos from A Nightmare on Elm Street heroine Heather Langenkamp as a victim who is attacked at knifepoint; Ted Raimi as one of Peter Bergs teammates; Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-94)s Brent Spiner as a guest on the tv talkshow; and both of Wes Cravens children Jonathan and Jessica.
Wes Cravens other genre films are: the brutality and revenge films The Last House on the Left (1972) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977); the suburban witch film Summer of Fear/Stranger in the House (1978); Deadly Blessing (1981) about murders around a religious cult; the comic-book adaptation Swamp Thing (1982); Invitation to Hell (tv movie, 1984); A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984); Chiller (tv movie, 1985); The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (1985); Deadly Friend (1986) about a teen inventor who revives his girlfriend from the dead; The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), a strikingly beautiful film about Haitian voodoo; Night Visions (tv movie, 1990); The People Under the Stairs (1991); Wes Cravens New Nightmare (1994); the Eddie Murphy vampire comedy Vampire in Brooklyn (1995); the slasher deconstruction trilogy of Scream (1996), Scream 2 (1997) and Scream 3 (2000); the werewolf film Cursed (2005); the dispossessed soul slasher film My Soul to Take (2010); and Scre4m/Scream 4 (2011). Wes Craven has also written the scripts for A Nightmare on Elm Street III: The Dream Warriors (1987), Pulse (2006) and The Hills Have Eyes II (2007), and produced Mind Ripper (1995), Wishmaster (1997), Carnival of Souls (1998), Dont Look Down (1998), Dracula 2000 (2000), Feast (2006), The Breed (2006), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), The Last House on the Left (2009), The Girl in the Photographs (2015) and the tv series Scream: The Series (2015 ). He also created the tv series The People Next Door (1989) and Nightmare Cafe (1992).