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Wes Craven
Peter Berg, Mitch Pileggi, Michael Murphy, Cami Cooper
Writing Credits:
Wes Craven

About to be electrocuted for a catalog of heinous crimes, the unrepentant Horace Pinker transforms into a terrifying energy source. Only young athlete Jonathan Parker, with an uncanny connection to Pinker through bizarre dreams, can fight the powerful demon.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $29.93
Release Date: 9/8/2015

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Wes Craven
• Audio Commentary with Director of Photography Jacques Haitkin, Producer Robert Engelman and Composer William Goldstein
• “Cable Guy” Featurette
• “Alison’s Adventures” Featurette
• “It’s Alive” Featurette
• Vintage Making Of Featurette
• Storyboard Gallery
• Still Gallery
• Trailer, TV Spots and Radio Spots


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Shocker [Blu-Ray] (1989)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 13, 2015)

Director Wes Craven made two truly seminal films: 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street and 1996’s Scream. Between those two classics, Craven seemed to find it tough to get anything going with mass audiences.

Case in point: 1989’s Shocker. Because it came with a miniscule budget, Shocker probably turned a profit, but it failed to develop into a hit of any sort. With a gross of barely $16 million in the US, it meant Craven would have to keep searching for the success he’d finally re-attain in 1996.

Though I was part of the film’s target audience in 1989, I never saw Shocker - and 26 years later, I barely remembered that it existed. This Blu-ray seemed like a good chance to discover if Craven’s film deserved a better fate.

A brutal serial killer terrorizes Maryville. After he hits his head, college football player Jonathan Parker (Peter Berg) dreams of a vicious murderer named Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi) – and he even senses the death of family members via this odd unconscious connection.

This manages to lead to Pinker’s capture and imprisonment. Pinker goes to death row and gets executed via the electric chair, but this doesn’t end the terror. From beyond the grave, Pinker continues his violent ways, as he uses electricity to cause mayhem – most of which attempts vengeance on Jonathan, the one who led to his arrest.

If you look at the cover of the Shocker Blu-ray, you might think, “hey, that bad guy sure reminds me of Freddy Krueger!” From the disfigured face to the scowl to the prominent evidence of a sharp blade, the comparisons become inevitable.

The movie itself does little to alter this impression. A killer who enacts revenge from beyond the grave? A young hero who battles the villain through dreams? Heck, Shocker even makes the lead character’s father a cop, just like in Nightmare. I don’t know to what degree Craven consciously created a semi-remake of Nightmare, but the end result remains a movie that seems much too close to its predecessor for coincidence.

I wouldn’t mind Craven’s self-plagiarism so much if Shocker didn’t offer such a limp experience. If we ignore the copycat feel, Shocker comes with a basic story that boasts some potential and it seems like something that could develop into a serviceable horror flick.

Unfortunately, Craven’s talents desert him in this slow, forgettable effort. A lot of the problem comes from the movie’s run time and pacing. 110 minutes doesn’t seem like an absurd length for a movie of this sort – Scream goes a minute longer – but Craven fails to use the time wisely.

Much of the problem comes from the build-up to Pinker’s transformation. The story interests us via the exploits of the “electrical Pinker”, not the human one, but Shocker doesn’t even get the baddie to the death chamber until minute 40, which seems far too late in the proceedings.

If Craven used the cinematic territory well, I wouldn’t mind, but the exposition mostly feels pointless. Sure, we get some info that becomes important later, but a better-written script would’ve gotten through the preliminaries in a more concise, involving manner. Shocker just feels like it dilly-dallies for no logical reason.

We never get much payoff for the long journey anyway. When Pinker finally goes all supernatural on us, the action feels gratuitous and perfunctory. There’s no tense or excitement on display; Craven gives us bland horror without purpose or thrill value.

Weak performances don’t help. Berg seems wide-eyed and superficial as the lead, and Pileggi does little more than overact as Pinker. At no point does Pinker threaten to become an interesting villain, much less a horror legend like Freddy Krueger. Better acting wouldn’t redeem Shocker, but it’d help.

Special notice needs to be given to the movie’s terrible use of music, mainly via the hair metal songs we often hear. Not only do these seem dated and cheesy, but also the film presents them in a way that actively detracts from the action.

For instance, when we go to the death chamber, Craven makes the bizarre choice to overlay the scene with Alice Cooper’s “No More Mr. Nice Guy”. Rather than set up the ominous tone the sequence needs, this makes the segment play like a frisky romp. It makes no sense at all, and it’s not the only example of poor song selection.

All of these problems add up to a weak movie. Even with its derivative nature, Shocker could – and should – have been better than this flawed snoozer.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Shocker appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a mostly positive presentation. <

Sharpness seemed good. A little softness affected a few wide shots and some interiors, but those were insubstantial. Instead, overall definition looked reasonably concise and tight. I witnessed no issues with moiré effects or jaggies, and edge haloes remained absent. Any print flaws were minimal, so we got a pretty clean presentation.

Colors were decent but reflected the issues that affected some of the era’s film stocks. This meant hues that seemed a but mushy, but the Blu-ray mostly displayed acceptable to good tones. Blacks were also a little inky at times, but they seemed fine as a whole, and shadows showed reasonably solid clarity. Despite some minor issues, this was a fairly appealing transfer..

Like the picture, the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack also showed its age. That said, it was fine given those limitations. The soundscape showed decent stereo imaging for the music and gave us a fair sense of environment. I wouldn’t call movement and integration truly natural, but they added some involvement to the proceedings and used the five channels in a reasonably satisfactory manner.

Audio quality was dated but decent. Speech could be a little brittle, but the lines remained intelligible and were usually natural enough. Music gave us acceptable vivacity, and effects seemed okay; they lacked great clarity but suffered from no obvious distortion or other flaws. This was a more than serviceable soundtrack for a 26-year-old movie.

When we go to the Blu-ray’s extras, we get two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from writer/director Wes Craven and presents a running, screen-specific piece. Craven discusses the project's roots, inspirations and influences, story/character areas, cast and performances, sets and locations, music, effects and stunts, and related topics.

Craven delivers a pretty mediocre commentary. He touches on a decent array of subjects and gives us occasional insights, but a lot of dead air passes, and the remarks tend to be somewhat bland. Craven does mention the movie's similarities with Nightmare on Elm Street, which becomes interesting, but overall this remains a lackluster piece.

Note that Craven recorded his commentary for a 2001 UK DVD. I believe the track makes its US debut here, as I couldn’t find evidence it showed up on any prior US DVDs.

For the second commentary, we hear from director of photography Jacques Haitkin, producer Robert Engelman and composer William Goldstein. Disc producer Michael Felsher conducted independent interviews with these three, so we get them presented here in a totally non-scene-specific manner. First we hear from Haitkin and then we get the chat with Engelman and finally we hear from Gooldstein. All three interviews cover similar territory, as we learn about how the men got into movies as well as their work on Shocker and other aspects of their careers.

Despite the unconventional format, the interviews add up to a good commentary. The three participants cover their efforts and perspectives well and we learn quite a lot about the production. After the dull Craven commentary, this one proves to be refreshing.

A few featurettes follow. Cable Guy goes for 17 minutes, 36 seconds and offers a chat with actor Mitch Pileggi. He talks about his role, his performance, aspects of the shoot and other biographical/career notes. Pileggi displays an affable personality and gives us a nice set of notes.

During the 17-minute, 12-second Alison’s Adventures, we find an interview with actor Camille Cooper. She discusses topics similar to those addressed by Pileggi, as we learn of her life/career, with an emphasis on Shocker. Though not as interesting as Pileggi’s chat, we do get a good array of facts.

It’s Alive presents an 11-minute, 57-second conversation with executive producer Shep Gordon. As expected, he tells us about his career and what he did for Shocker. In particular, I like Gordon’s discussion of his work in music, as this reveals why Shocker uses so many rock tunes.

Next comes the 26-minute, 13-second No More Mr. Nice Guy. It features comments from Pileggi, music supervisor/producer Desmond Child, and musicians Jason McMaster, David Ellefson, Kane Roberts and Bruce Kulick. “Guy” looks at the rock songs featured in the film. Some decent comments appear to make this a moderately interesting piece.

A Vintage Making Of runs eight minutes, 48 seconds and actually presents two separate short featurettes. We hear from Craven, Pileggi, producer Marianne Maddalena, and actors Michael Murphy and Peter Berg. In addition to shots from the set, we get thoughts about the movie’s themes and concepts as well as story/characters. The segments work better than expected, though they include unfortunate spoilers.

We get two galleries, both of which offer running compilations. One provides storyboards (8:55), and the other gives us stills (6:32). Both offer a decent array of materials, though the storyboards work best.

Plenty of promos finish the set. We find the film’s trailer, two TV spots and two radio spots.

Apparently Wes Craven wanted to remake A Nightmare On Elm Street in the worst way, because that’s what Shocker did: create a bad copy of his earlier success. Slow, stupid and flawed in a variety of ways, Shocker flops. The Blu-ray offers generally positive picture and audio as well as a nice selection of bonus materials. Skip Shocker and watch the vastly superior Nightmare instead.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.3333 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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