October Extras #12 - Shocker (1989)

OCTOBER 12, 2007

LAST SEEN: 2004 (?) (DVD)

Ah, Shocker. One of the finest films to have ever graced the screen. So flawless the film is, I remain confused as to why the print hasn't been stored at the National Film Registry alongside Halloween and Citizen Kane.

I am of course, joking. Shocker is a ridiculous movie with often terrible effects and totally batshit plotting (the "You got it baby!" scene alone has got to make you wonder just exactly how high/drunk Wes Craven was when he wrote it). But the movie is a riot, and I never tire of watching it. Also, for a movie so ridiculous, there are some rather subtle plot developments that I have discovered lots of folks don't really pick up on. For example, Jonathan IS indeed Horace Pinker's son. Also, a less important subplot but still worth mentioning - the stronger one's love is for Jonathan, the harder it is for him to possess them, if he is able to at all. This is revealed rather late in the film, when Pinker explains to Jonathan that he couldn't possess Pac-Man (Ted Raimi!) because he liked Jon "A little too much".

It's also quite rare, especially in the 80s, to have what is essentially a slasher movie with a male lead. The "Final Girl" is killed like 20 minutes in (and quite bloodily, also odd for the otherwise bloodless late 80s), and there's no other female in the film other than the occasional Pinker victim (and they aren't even characters, often dead the first/last time we see them). However, the girl DOES continue to be in the film, as a bloody ghost who helps Jonathan defeat Pinker with her magic necklace and of course, her undying love. Again, what the hell was Wes ON?

Of course, the soundtrack is key to the movie's entertainment value. I don't think it's possible to watch the film and not have a blast with the cheesy metal/ballads that pop in and out throughout the film (almost all of the songs on the soundtrack are actually in the movie!). The theme song is brilliant; making me wish that The Dudes Of Wrath had put together a whole album. Iggy Pop's "Love Transfusion" is another highlight. And of course, who can forget Dead On's "Different Breed"?? "He sees himself, apart from you and I! Is he from down below, or is he from the sky?" Amazing. "Shockdance", one of the few songs that don't appear in the film proper, contains lyrics that blasphemize the Our Father, leading my dad to take the tape (TAPE!) away from me as a young lad. Though all he did was put it in a drawer, so I got it back. I guess even he couldn't resist occasionally listening to Megadeth (trivia - Megadeath is a real word, but not Megadeth. So says spellcheck.) cover Alice Cooper.

The strange thing about Shocker is that whenever someone mentions it (OK, replying to my asking if they have seen it), they always say "Yeah, the one where the killer goes through the TV, right?" It's sort of fascinating how this subplot, only introduced in the film's final 20 minutes, is what resonates the most. It's like Shocker is horror's answer to It's A Wonderful Life, a film everyone claims is about a guy who sees what life would be like without him, but again, in reality this is only the film's third act. There's a lot of great stuff (and again, songs!) that occur long before Pinker yells "I'm nationwide now!" and turns into a rainbow. Not that I will deny that the TV chase is the highlight of the film, but let's not dismiss the 90 minutes of story that come before it!

When I put the film on, my friend Abbie said she hadn't seen it for a while. Which is when I realized that it had been far too long since I last watched it - I've known her for 2 years or so, and I used to make it a rule that anyone I meet has to watch it with me unless they could remember it well (of course, many folks haven't seen it at all, hence the damnable lack of a sequel). I use it as a barometer of sorts; if you're the type of person that can't enjoy a cheesy, ridiculous horror movie, then you're too un-awesome to be my pal. Shocker is the best example of such type of entertainment. The upcoming remake is one I am for once opposed to - I highly doubt the soundtrack will have the level of jaw-dropping "Oh JESUS" quality to it, and they will probably make the lead a girl (and, yes, probably make the whole thing about Pinker in the TV). The film's nonsensical plotting and crude effects (why does Jonathan make a transition from projected to reality near the end?) are what make the film enjoyable. Making the movie serious would kill the whole point of it, if you ask me (and they should, for I am the world renowned expert on Shocker. I even have the book).

What say you?


  1. It's about time we have a formal BC commentary on Shocker. I've never heard of anybody else owning the novel.

    I also had the soundtrack on tape, I've since upgraded to CD. How did Desomnd Child go from The Dudes of Wrath to writing Living La Vida Loca?

    Oh well, Shockdance is fantastic. How else would I know whether or not Horace Pinker ever does the dishes?

  2. I fucking love Shocker. I definitely could have used a sequel to it rather than Craven making the Oedipus-inspiring Vampire in Brooklyn.

  3. P.S. By Oedipus-inspiring, I meant tearing out my eyes and not boning my mom.

  4. I used to have the book AND a Shocker poster in my room!!

  5. Sorry coming the part a little late. Always loved the movie, and even moreso, the novel. Never quite understand the back cover text which described it as being in the tradition of The Shining. WTF?


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