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  • Writer's pictureMr. Pat


Updated: Oct 31, 2023

Being sick is for the birds. We have some beautiful fall weather and I can't enjoy it because I feel like crap! I've been daydreaming about going to bed since around noon today. That's all I got, so let's talk about...

Shocker (1989)

Do you know why I love 80's horror? On top of having some of the absolute best horror movies ever made, it had some that are so uniquely insane and impossible to describe to a non-horror fan without them giving you polite head nods and "that's crazy" responses in the hopes that you'll stop talking. Seriously, find a random person out on the street and explain the things that happen in Chopping Mall, The Stuff or Night of the Creeps. I don't think you could make those movies today. Well, you could, nothing's stopping you, but those movies wouldn't be popular nor would they stand the test of time like the awesome camp you got back then because the world is much a different place now. I think that's partly why "Stranger Things" is so popular, it's nostalgia, and everyone loves the 80s because everything was goofy. How much of the second Wonder Woman movie was the director saying, "Look how crazy it was back then!". What I love is that after you explain a campy 80s movie and that random asks you why it was like that, you can shrug your shoulders and say, "It was the 80s." The answer explains nothing but somehow explains everything.

So let's talk about this movie. A serial killer is going around and police can't track him down. As he murders entire families, police have no suspects, no clues and the bodies keep piling up. It's not until Johnathan Parker suffers a concussion on the football field that's mostly played for laughs (man, times have changed, huh?) that police get a lead. It comes in the form of a dream from the concussed Jonathan where he witnesses the murder of his adopted family, minus the cop father only for it to come true. Wes Craven once again has dreams playing a pretty big part in a horror movie, but this time it's less effective. From there, he tries to convince his dad that he can help him find the murderer Horace Pinker.

Eventually, Jonathan can get the best of Pinker and the murderer is arrested and sentenced to ride the lightning. That's when the movie gets weird. Before he's about to be executed, guards come across Pinker in his cell doing some type of ritual with candles and a TV. He keeps yelling, "Give it to me!" until an evil voice responds with, "You got it, baby!" After an explosion and a fake death, Pinker gets hauled to the electric chair. He then tells Jonathan he's his real father. When Jonathan was much younger, Pinker was attacking his wife. Jonathan managed to get Pinker's gun and shoot his dad in the knee. The dialogue explains their connection and why Pinker walks with a pronounced limp. Before he says anymore, they flip the switch and Pinker gets the ability to become electricity. He can also possess people and travel through electrical fields.

Watching this you realize it's two movies in one. The first plays out like a traditional thriller. There's a sadistic killer on the loose that keeps dropping bodies and police are trying to stop him. After he's killed, the movie turns into a paranormal revenge tale. Pinker is taking out Jonathan's friends and framing him for the murders to the point his adopted dad thinks he's behind the killings. There's a part where Pinker is possessing people in a park trying to kill Jonathan in broad daylight. There's something really funny about the visual of the officer firing away in a public park, but then it gets even better. Pinker takes control of a seven-year-old girl and she makes her presence felt by running into him with an excavator! Her foul mouth combined with the sight of a star high school football player chasing around the girl while her mother helplessly screams is so funny.

Then in the third act, it gets insane. I'm not going to bother explaining the stuff that happens because it has to be seen to be believed. The final showdown is absolutely wild. Pinker learned the ability to travel through electrical currents and after getting advice from his murdered girlfriend, Jonathan and the serial killer battle it out in the craziest way possible. In the final fight, it's clear that Wes Craven wants to show off the absurdity of the premise so it devolves into a silly fistfight where they trade punches and then overact to it in increasingly outlandish backdrops. I loved it.

There's a lot to like in this film if you turn your brain off. The acting isn't really good, especially from the lead, but I think it works better this way. Honestly, I think it's easier to embrace the goofiness of this movie than when your main character is overacting. I think a better actor would have hurt the movie's appeal. Here are just some random things that are just so off the wall that I can't help but love. Jonathan's friends and his football coach have his back 100% and don't question that the ghost of a serial killer has turned into electricity and is possessing people. At one point Jonathan is arrested and put in the back of a cop car. His buddy, Rhino, shows up, kicks out the window and pulls Jonathan free in front of a dozen officers! Then his teammates and coach all volunteer to go around with his crazy plan to stop Pinker. And there's also the fact that the people Pinker possesses still have his bad limp. Despite slowing him down, he can catch up to Jonathan multiple times despite Jonathan being a star wide receiver for his football team. I also like Pinker tricking the kid multiple times with the "It's actually me now, Pinker's gone" trick and then attacking him.

One common complaint people give to this movie is that it doesn't do a good job explaining the rules of its world. Jonathan talks about his plan but it doesn't make any sense. That's kind of a theme. A lot of things happen that leave you scratching your head, but we're watching a movie about a serial killer who turns into electricity, who cares about rules?

8 Dr. Chainsaws!

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