Moving back to 1989.
That was quite a year.
I got married in 1989. Batman hit the screens and a new wave of Batmania eclipsed the world. James Cameron started a long love affair with undersea filming in The Abyss - and Wes Craven created a new horror film franchise.
Except he didn’t.
Well, maybe he should have - maybe that was the plan. But it didn’t pan out. All the elements are there, though. The killer here could’ve rivalled Freddy himself. But something went terribly wrong.
The first thing that strikes anyone who watches this movie is its similarity to House 3: The Horror Show (also 1989). Think about it, Max Jenke is a crazed serial killer who is executed in the electric chair and comes back to wreak havoc and vengeance. Same is true of Horace Pinker in Shocker. (Actually, there are some similarities to Trick or Treat (1986) as well).
So, we have a strong central killer. Horace Pinker is a TV repair man who on the side is a mass murderer and practices the black arts. Okay - so far so good. We’re on solid ground - right. The film even starts with footage of Pinker preparing for another killing spree in a sequence that’s an outrageous steal from "Nightmare on Elm Street". Pinker is played by Mitch Pileggi a full nine years before he became Mulder and Scully’s boss, Skinner in The X Files.
Caught and arrested, he is sentenced to death in the chair, but Pinker has cast a spell and uses electricity to return from the dead. He can possess the bodies of the living and enter a potential victim’s house vial the cabling or TV. He is after the high school football player to turned him in to the police after Pinker practically painted the bedroom walls and ceiling with his girlfriend. Okay - now we’re REALLY talking.
Downside. And this is a BIG downside - the football player saw Pinker in a dream after being concussed in football practice. His slaughtered girlfriend keeps popping up from the dead in visions to advise him like some sort of doe-eyed Obi Wan Kenobi, giving him a pendant which he gave to her on her birthday, coincidentally the day she was splattered.
It really plays like Craven made two films, the editor mixed up the reels, thought "what the hell" and spliced them into one big movie. It had been quite some time since I had last seen this film and I was a little bit disappointed at how disjointed it seemed at times. The whole dead girlfriend being a spirit guide thing really make the middle of the film sag very badly, slowing it down to a dull crawl after the relatively fun sequence of Pinker jumping from body to body, possessing a cop, a little girl and a construction worker (played by Alice Cooper’s ex guitarist Kane Roberts) in his quest to kill the hero. (The way that we in the audience can tell whose body he’s in is the fact that the host develops a distinct and pronounced limp.)
I think that with a little further development, this could have been two films - Horace Pinker’s story in one and the other the dreamer who can visualise and foresee killings, aided by his dead girlfriend. The trouble is that Craven tends to go to the dream well a few times too many. Between Nightmare on Elm Street, Deadly Blessing, the New Nightmare, which was still a few years away maybe it was time for Craven to look elsewhere.
Interestingly, it was rumoured on the internet a few years ago that Jason himself, Kane Hodder was starring in a remake of Shocker and lucky me, I had an opportunity to ask the man himself during an interview. Kane told me hadn’t even heard the rumour but would’ve been happy to do it. Sadly, like most rumours it was based on wishful thinking - because it never came to pass.
I am surprised though that when the Movie Maniacs and Cinema of Fear figures were released, Horace Pinker was conspicuously absent.
Next time - The Serpent and the Rainbow. Voodoo zombie goodness.