Combustible Celluloid
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With: Michael Murphy, Peter Berg, Mitch Pileggi, Sam Scarber, Camille Cooper, Ted Raimi, Virginia Morris, Richard Brooks, Heather Langenkamp, John Tesh
Written by: Wes Craven
Directed by: Wes Craven
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 109
Date: 10/27/1989

Shocker (1989)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Under Current

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I saw Wes Craven's Shocker at the Empire theater in San Francisco, and I enjoyed it, but critics at the time could not get over the fact that Craven had tried, with his nasty new villain Horace Pinker, to create another Freddy Krueger and another franchise. As if that was a bad thing. And Pinker is an amazingly cool, terrifying baddie. He's perhaps even scarier than Freddy, given the intimidatingly personal nature of his relationship with the hero.

Played by Mitch Pileggi (who would go on to play the much cooler-headed Skinner on TV's The X-Files), Pinker is a sneering, bald serial killer who runs a TV repair shop and walks with a limp. He once killed the entire family of Jonathan Parker (Peter Berg), and is on the loose. Jonathan now lives with a foster father, quick-tempered police lieutenant Don Parker (Michael Murphy), has lots of friends on the football team at school, and has a beautiful girlfriend, Alison (Cami Cooper). All of them are in danger. Pinker is caught and executed, but comes back as a supernatural being, able to leap from body to body, and eventually able to travel through television broadcasts. It's up to Jonathan to stop him (he has dreams about Pinker's movements and has some kind of connection with him).

Craven's movie is long, and it takes a while for the electricity to start, but it's apparent that he's totally involved and committed to the fear -- and the fun. (There are a few jokes.) His clever idea allows for a few brilliant chases and special-effects showdowns. Perhaps now that Craven is gone (I'm writing this in September of 2015) viewers can give it another look with a new perspective. Only Joe Bob Briggs seemed to fully appreciate it in its time, adding it to the "Drive-In Hall of Fame."

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