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Shocker – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

ShockerFans of legendary director Wes Craven (Scream, The Last House on the Left, A Nightmare on Elm Street) know well the terror mayhem inflicted by Horace Pinker, a diabolical mass murderer who harnesses electricity for unimaginable killing powers, from the 1989 horror cult classic SHOCKER. On September 8, 2015, Scream Factory™ is proud to present Wes Craven’s SHOCKER Collector’s Edition Blu-ray, packed with insightful bonus content including, special audio commentary with Wes Craven, all-new interviews with Mitch Pileggi, Cami Cooper, executive producer Shep Gordon, music supervisor Desmond Child and soundtrack artists, new audio commentary with director of photography Jacques Haitkin, co-producer Robert Engelman and composer William Goldstein, retrospective featurettes, original storyboard gallery and much more!  A blend of dazzling special effects and an electrifying soundtrack, SHOCKER stars Michael Murphy (X-Men: The Last Stand, Batman Returns), actor/director Peter Berg (actor Smokin’ Aces, director Lone Survivor), Cami Cooper (Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace) and Mitch Pileggi (The X-Files, Sons of Anarchy) as Horace Pinker.

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Film 

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. The two dive in and out of television programs, chasing each other from channel to channel through stunning scenes of disaster, game shows and old reruns.

Here’s a film with terrible scores across the interwebs, that I’ll happily go to bat for.  Is this film misunderstood greatness?  Absolutely not, but from looking around, especially at the time of release, this film was met with a lot of harsh criticism.  Some rightfully so.  The movie does go off the rails for its final act, but I think there is some merit in what leads up to it.

Shocker was Wes Craven’s attempt at doing a new Freddy.  He mentioned it in interviews and when you watch the film its blatantly obvious he’s trying to crib from his own classic.  Oddly though, he’s also trying to spoon in a lot of what made 1987’s Krueger sequel Dream Warriors tick.  Needless to say, Horace Pinker did not become the phenomenon that was Freddy Krueger (That year, battling up against Elm St‘s Dream Child).

Unlike Freddy, Shocker actually is a lot meaner and darker of a film than most of the Elm Street series even got close to.  Pinker is one mean, brutal son of a bitch and Peter Berg’s Jonathan Parker takes the brunt of it.  His entire foster family, save for his dad, are brutally murdered at the start of the film.  He also witnesses his dad’s entire police squad slaughtered.  And to top it off, he finds his girlfriend savagely killed and laying in a blood soaked bathroom in a tub full of her own blood.

Making a lovely visual diary of this is Jacues Haitkin who shot the original Elm Street with Craven along with its sequel.  The atmosphere and look the film has is downright spooky and pretty horrifying.  Each room in a home can provide for its own haunting gateway.  When Alison returns from the dead as a ghost to visit with Jonathan, all those scenes are some of my favorite in this movie and in horror history.  Her makeup, the effects and Haitkin’s work really nail this aspect of the film.

Some of Shocker‘s biggest strength is also its weakness; Horace Pinker.  Craven sort of allows this character to get a bit too free (Mitch Pileggi says Craven let him go wild) and should have brought the reigns in.  While, yeah, he can creep you out with this words, sometimes too many of them gets a little tired or hokey.  A little more restraint on Pinker and he may have done well enough to land a sequel.

Where I really can’t defend the movie much is the grand finale, which features Pinker and Parker going through different TV shows and having a fist fight.  This is just too silly and really doesn’t work.  Time also hasn’t done it any favors as well.  I think a lot of the dated effects actually still look cool and work well for the film, but not in this final battle.  Its almost like Craven wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with this.

Consider me a fan of Shocker.  Maybe since I wasn’t a big hater of it when I first saw it on VHS back in the 90s, I’ve gone back to see it again and found much more to appreciate.  There are some really great horror-related things in here, and many scenes put together expertly by Craven, Haitkin and the effects crew.  Its just not a movie that hits everything at 100% and I’m okay with that.  Wes Craven was trying to force a “new icon of horror” on us, and it just wasn’t working.  Luckily this was made back in 1989 where they just made the damn movie and worried about sequels after the box office take came in, so this stands alone fine and has no loose dangling threads.  I do think this film would make a good candidate for a fresh, talented young horror filmmaker to come in and remake it.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1o80p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  I actually thought Shocker’s blu-ray presentation looked pretty impressive.  Detail and sharpness (as much as it will allow) is there.  Its one that really understands the mood and feel of each environment.  The image is also bold and very visceral.

Depth:  There is some good looseness, due to some good cinematography throughout.  Character movements are smooth and cinematic.  Background detail is as crisp as the focus allows.

Black Levels: Blacks feature no crushing and have a nice deep quality to them, able to enhance spookiness when called upon.  No real detail was noticeably hidden and surfaces, fabrics and hair follicles had discernible features.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are bold and feature a decent sized palette.  Blues and reds were this transfers strongest displays.  The film really makes some of its colors pops with a good deal of beauty (no bleeding) and helping craft the frame.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones feature more of a natural look, though there are a few scenes featuring a cold look.  They are consistent throughout.  The closer a shot gets, the more detail on facial features you can make out, like stubble, wrinkles, scars and freckles.

Noise/Artifacts:  There is a nice little layer of grain and maybe a spec or two.  This print used was in very good shape.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics: This actually comes out being one of the better Scream Factory vintage film 5.1 audio tracks.  I was very pleasantly surprised with it.  The film is very lively, envokes its atmosphere, and gets plenty in your face with the action.  And the songs in the film also rev up quite nicely here.

Low Frequency Extension:  Stabbings, thunder, heavy metal, crashes and all kinds of action get a noticeable boost from the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Not just ambiance, but a lot of cool creeper sounds protrude through the rear speakers.  The front channels do a fine job of getting the volume levels correct and following the film’s action to a T.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Loud, clean and very clear.

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Extras 

Shocker – Collector’s Edition comes with reversible cover art featuring the film’s original poster as an alternative option.

Audio Commentary

  • With Wes Craven
  • With Jacques Haitkin, Robert Engelman and William Goldstein

Cable Guy (HD, 17:36) – An interview with actor Mitch Pileggi.  He discusses his career before becoming an actor, how he auditioned for the role of the coach first and doing all the stunts and how it has taken a toll on his body in the years since.

Alison’s Adventures (HD, 17:12) – An interview with actress Cami Cooper.  She gives a little bit of a career retrospective and how she still supports and goes out to see all of Peter Berg’s films that he has directed (And its funny everyone interviewed for this mentions how he constantly talked about how he wanted to be a director on set), but the highlight is her inspiring story about leaving the film industry.

It’s Alive (HD, 11:57) – An interview with executive producer Shep Gordon.  The producer discusses how the Alive production company came to be and how they allowed Wes Craven and John Carpenter to run wild with their films Shocker, The People Under The Stairs, Prince of Darkness and They Live.

No More Mr. Nice Guy: The Music Of Shocker (HD, 26:13) – An impressive little retrospective on the soundtrack for the film.  It features the producer as well as members of the bands that recorded for the soundtrack.  A lot of inside info on how the songs came to be and the process of incorporating it into the film.

Trailer & TV Spots (HD, 2:32) 

Radio Spots (HD, 1:09)

Vintage Making Of (HD, 8:48) – Two little EPK featurettes from 1989 that feature behind the scenes footage and interviews with Wes Craven, Peter Perg and Cami Cooper.

Storyboard Gallery (HD, 8:55) 

Still Gallery – Features behind the scenes photos, promotional stills, posters, headshots and lobby cards.

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Summary 

We’ve all been waiting for the day that Scream Factory unleashed Shocker upon us, and now, years later its finally arrived and its the furthest thing from a disappointment.  Craven’s film looks and sounds better than it ever has.  Personally I found it to be one of the better Scream Factory transfers with both its video and audio.  These extras are STACKED and loaded with plenty of deep insightful interviews.  The little piece on the soundtrack is surprisingly impressive, too.  What more could you really want?  You might be quick to brush past nothing new with Craven, but you have a full commentary here ported over.  Missing only is an interview with Peter Berg and the Megadeath music video (But, if the music video is a breaking point, there’s YouTube folks).  Pick up Shocker for sure, its one of Scream Factory’s best releases this year.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

2 Responses to “Shocker – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Gerard Iribe

    Dudes of Wrath!!!!!!!!!

  2. Brandon Peters

    Hahaha! They actually go a little in depth about Dudes of Wrath on the music featurette!