Blu-Ray Review – Shocker

I’ve always struggled with the sleaziest Wes Craven films such The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. I much prefer Craven when he injects surrealism in his films especially A Nightmare on Elm Street. Craven after that success was given pretty carte blanche to do whatever he wanted. Before Shocker Craven made The Serpent and the Rainbow which was a big hit and remains one of his better films.

Shocker is a frankly ludicrous premise of a serial killer on the loose who has a connection to the son of the cop on the case though the son’s dreams. The serial killer eventually gets caught due to the son’s dreams and he gets the electric chair. However the execution goes horribly wrong and he survives and becomes pure electricity and can possess other people’s bodies and can travel though TV shows even. The cop and the son now must kill the killer somehow even if they themselves may get possessed along the way.

The son is played by Peter Berg who of course is now a talented director in his own right. He is a perfectly good in the lead and would continue his acting career for 9 years, he still acts occasionally but his priorities are his directorial work. Altman’s go to actor Michael Murphy plays the cop and is always a pleasure to watch. The killer is played by Mitch Pileggi who is menacing but also has a good sense of the tongue in cheek nature of the material.

The film was really lambasted at the time and remains by many to be one of Craven’s weakest efforts. I much prefer it to his earlier work but then again I always prefer his gonzo surrealist horror films. It certainly owes a lot to A Nightmare on Elm Street with its villain being able to communicate through dreams. It’s ragged around the edges and could probably loose around 15 minutes of it’s running time but it’s an important stepping stone for Craven who would have a career rebirth with Scream 8 years later. However this is a much better film than that and has a great sense of fun and along with A Nightmare on Elm Street it remains Craven’s finest work.

There has been much speculation on online forums if it would have anything in the way of special features. I can happily report it carries over the majority of the Scream Factory features from the US disc. Wes Craven supplies a commentary track which of course was recorded before his death even though it would be awesome if it was recorded from the grave. 3 interviews are included which total around 50 minutes, the interviewees are Mitch Pileggi, actress Cami Cooper and executive producer Shep Gordon. The other big feature is a featurette on the very ’80s hard rock soundtrack that film has and it’s around the half hour mark. The disc is rounded off with a storyboard comparison and the theatrical trailer.

★★★★

Ian Schultz

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