Released by: Shout! Factory
Released on: September 8th, 2015.
Director: Wes Craven:
Cast: Mitch Pileggi, Peter Berg, Michael Murphy, Ted Raimi
Year: 1989 Purcahse From Amazon
Wes Craven will certainly be missed. Watching SHOCKER - one of the less respected titles in the man's large oeuvre - it struck me that even at his "worst", Craven's films were almost always wildly imaginative and invested with a distinctive style.
SHOCKER's central conceit - that a mad killer named Horace (hey, I finally got a crazed movie villain with my moniker!) Pinker (Mitch Pileggi) can survive the electric chair and invade dreams - is as dumb as a bag of wet hammers. What's even more astounding is that this goofy plot line featured in TWO films released in 1989. And while SHOCKER is a better effort than rival (and previous Craven collaborator) Sean Cunningham's THE HORROR SHOW, both film's strongest assets are their gonzo killers. But of course with Brion (BLADE RUNNER) James running loose in THE HORROR SHOW, what did anyone expect? But the real ahem, shocker is Mitch Pileggi in this film. Who would've thought that the X-Files most sober presence was capable of reducing scenery to kindling with such OTT panache?
Plot you say? Oh that. High school stud Jonathan (Peter Berg) is having dreams where he can see the identity of a serial killer terrorizing the city. The man who adopted him, Detective Don Parker (Michael Murphy), doesn't initially take his son seriously. But after he loses some of his men during a raid on an abandoned machine shop (thanks to a tip from his son) and Johnathan's girlfriend is slaughtered, the cop starts to take things more seriously. Pinker is finally caught and executed. And then returns from the grave, wreaking havoc and invading other bodies through his ability to morph into "pure energy". And that's all she wrote.
SHOCKER's plot would struggle to fill a Tales From The Crypt episode. And yet, it is close to two hours long. It's also Craven's most self-cannibalizing work. The man shamelessly cribs from his own NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET with the dream angle, and the rest of the setup is just a typical hokey horror flick. Berg is also kind of a snooze. But where SHOCKER shines is in its gonzo final act and hilariously dated Heavy Metal ethos. Pileggi, spitting out one-liners like Freddy Krueger in a comedy club, chases Berg through television sets, Leave It To Beaver episodes and every permutation of cathode ray reality imaginable. This is the closest thing to a live action looney tunes presentation I've seen, and Pileggi just rolls with it. Then there's the soundtrack stuffed with the likes of MEGADETH and DANGEROUS TOYS. In fact, SHOCKER's whole raison d'etre at times seems to be to embody the zeitgeist of popular culture circa 1989.
As a horror movie, SHOCKER is a dud. As a hoot, it's a mildly rip-roaring success (if that makes any sense). As a hamfest (horns up for Mitch!) and entertainment machine it's a winner. I like this film. I admit it.
Scream's 1080p, AVC encoded 1.85.1 framed transfer has only one real flaw. There is a light dusting of DNR present which tends to rob skin of its natural pores on occasion. To be fair, this isn't a total smear job either. Nobody's going to look at this and think of Vaseline. But it isn't totally organic either. Consult those fat-ass screen caps to judge your comfort level with this transfer. Other key areas - black levels, color reproduction, print condition, all pass muster. On a typical 25-50 inch me monitor this will look fine. Audio is covered by two tracks: a DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 Master Audio mix. Both tracks are strong with good balance and nice fidelity range. English subtitles are included.
It's a bit ridiculous how many extras are on this thing. Of the two commentary tracks, the one with Craven is quite low key. The director does share some insights into his working methods and obsession with dreams, but he's less lively than usual here. The track with director of photography Jacques Haitkin, co-producer Robert Engelman, and composer William Goldstein is a much livelier affair. Though the participants were all edited together from separate sessions, there's a sense of continuity. These three dudes cover the history of SHOCKER quite nicely.
"Cable Guy", the new 18 minute interview with Mitch Pileggi is my favorite of the new extras. He's a fun and informative interview subject and clearly has much affection for this film. Actress Cami Cooper isn't quite as interesting in her 17 minute interview, but she still shares some good info. Then we have the legendary producer and ALICE COOPER lynchpin Shep Gordon on the "It's Alive" featurette. He delves into his working process and how the music was putt other.
"No More Mr. Nice Guy: The Music Of Shocker" is almost a half hour long and manages to rope in key figures like Dave Ellefson of MEGADETH and guitarist Kane Roberts of Alice Cooper. The inimitable Desmond Child almost steals this one out from right under the nose of the metal guys, but this is a real document of a musical era. There's also a couple of vintage making of featurettes that, while boasting an impressive number of participants on both sides of the camera, have a bit too much of the stink of EPK on them. The last bonus bits are the film's theatrical trailer, still and storyboard galleries, and some amusing radio and television spots.
The Final Jolt:
SHOCKER is too clever-dumb for its own good and could use a brutal 30 minute edit. But it has its charms. The final act is really quite engaging, and Pileggi is a blast to watch. Considering Craven's sad recent passing, it's nice to see this film get such luxe treatment. Scream's transfer may not be perfect due to the use of mild DNR, but this is a quality release nonetheless. The rest of the package is first rate and fan-generous and created with loving care. Rest in peace Mr. Craven.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!