We got some sad news last week when director Wes Craven died of brain cancer at the age of seventy-six. I wasn’t aware he had cancer until then. Craven was known as the director of A Nightmare on Elm Street and the Scream series, as well as several other horror classics. Beth and I saw him do a question-and-answer panel at the Monster-Mania Convention in 2005, when he was promoting the thriller Red Eye, which turned out to be pretty good. Unfortunately, not everything he made could be great, and the most recent Craven film we saw was kind of a dud. Shocker was near the top of our Netflix queue anyway, largely because we’d just recently seen the actor who played the bad guy at Monster-Mania. Mitch Pileggi, who played the role, is more famous as Director Skinner on The X-Files.
I’d say our viewing turned out to be sort of a tribute to Craven, except having seen it, that comes off as rather disrespectful.
The poster and trailer for the movie make it look like it’s about a guy who kills people with electricity. Well, not quite. There are about forty minutes of film before he gets the chair, where he spends most of his time stabbing people. The killer is a television repairman named Horace Pinker who also practices black magic. When he kills much of the protagonist’s foster family, our hero Jonathan Parker develops psychic powers that allow him to see in his dreams where Pinker will strike next. The police finally bust Pinker and send him to the chair, but electrocuting him only gives him the power to move through electrical currents and take over people’s bodies. So we have a kid with prophetic dreams and a serial killer who gets supernatural powers at his death. If that doesn’t sound familiar enough to you, the protagonist’s dad is a police lieutenant, and Pinker makes wisecracks when he murders people. I feel like Wes was kind of ripping off himself here. It gets extra-wacky when Pinker gets into a satellite dish and is able to appear on television, and he and Jonathan duke it out against the backdrop of a lot of different footage. If you think the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise became too silly, you’re probably better off avoiding this one.