To use an oxymoron shared by so many in the horror movie fan community, Shocker is a great terrible movie. The story is all over the place, the effects are outlandish, the lines are extra cheesy, and the musical score is an onslaught of 80s metal. And speaking of the score, Shocker is complete with some of the most prolonged and raucous of stings I've encountered. It seemed like an explosion of a thousand MIDI samples every time someone unexpectedly turned the corner!
I would love to have been there when Wes Craven wrote this script. Protagonist: a young (high school? college?) football player in a platonic relationship, who has his own house, is able to "feel" the antagonist and "confront" him via dreaming. Antagonist: A serial murderer who gets juiced on television electrodes before slaying his victims. He is also apparently involved in some form of dark worship based on references to animal sacrifice. (Later in the movie, we find that this dark force our antagonist worships is an enormous pair of electronic lips!)
These two central characters are then pitted against each other in true Craven style. The movie is a mash-up of Nightmare on Elm Street, Poltergeist, and Fallen, though Fallen released nearly a decade later. Like Nightmare, the protagonist is able to face the killer, but a buddy, Rhino in this case, must wake him before it's too late. Unlike Nightmare, Shocker throws this in and then abandons it, most likely because, well, it's already being used in the Nightmare series. But I'm not complaining. This is one reason I love Stephen King novels (emphasis on novels); it's great when an artist mixes in elements across his or her body of work.
The movie is loaded with gags and gimmicks, ranging from the ghost girlfriend, who constantly appears from the bathroom, to the ending. The ending is an enormous success for Shocker, and again, I wish I could've been there to witness the writing. Two characters dive into a television set and duke it out across channels. Then, back in reality (is this movie ever really in reality?), the remote control is used to govern the killer's actions--a nice little precursor to Haneke's Funny Games, though Haneke took it to a different level.
BC at Horror Movie a Day recently organized a screening of Shocker with Craven and others in attendance. Here is a short clip from the Q&A that took place before the screening. He also has some great commentaries here. If you haven't heard of Horror Movie a Day, then I'm shocked that you have heard of this blog, and I urge you to start reading HMAD. This horror aficionado has been watching a horror movie every day since early 2007!