The film opens with news report showing a victim being pulled away on a stretcher. It is revealed that a serial killer, having murdered over thirty people, is on the loose in a Los Angeles suburb. A television repairman with a pronounced limp, named Horace Pinker, becomes the prime suspect. When the investigating detective, Lt. Don Parker, gets too close, Pinker murders Parker's wife, foster daughter, and foster son.
However, his other foster son, a college football star named Jonathan, develops a strange connection to Pinker through his dreams and leads Parker to Pinker's rundown shop. In a shootout in which several officers are killed, Pinker manages to escape, and targets Jonathan's girlfriend Allison in retribution.
Another dream leads Lt. Parker and the police to Pinker, whom they catch in the act of a kidnapping. This time, just as Pinker is about to kill Jonathan, he is arrested. Pinker is quickly convicted and sentenced to die in the electric chair.
Prior to his execution, Pinker reveals that Jonathan is, in fact, his son, and that as a boy, Jonathan had shot him in the knee while trying to stop the murder of his mother. But what they do not realize is that Pinker has made a "deal with the Devil", When executed, he does not actually die but instead becomes pure electricity, and is able to possess others (it is unknown if the possessed hosts live or die after Pinker leaves their body since some of them were shown to be lying motionless after being released) to continue his murderous ways. Some of the people who are killed, are prison staff and Jonathan's friends.
He soon possesses Lt. Parker, who uses his strength to fight off Pinker, who escapes into a T.V. dish. Jonathan and his friends try to find a way to fight him. Jonathan's friend, Rhino and his friends head to the power station to disable the power.
Jonathan, with the aid of Alison's "spirit", devises a scheme to bring Pinker back into the real world and accidentally discovers that Pinker, as with all energy sources, is bound by the laws of the real world; Jonathan uses this limitation to defeat Pinker, and traps him inside a television. Pinker threatens Jonathan that he will find a way out of his "prison". The film ends when Alison's voice tells Jonathan to take care of himself, while Jonathan's neighborhood suffers a blackout, caused by his friends blowing out the power main, trapping Pinker in the television.
Jonathan goes outside amidst all his neighbors and looks up at the sky. He asks Alison if she can see the stars to which she replies "Absolutely beautiful" Jonathan smiles and agrees and takes one more look at the stars.Michael Murphy as Lt. Don Parker
Peter Berg as Jonathan Parker
Mitch Pileggi as Horace Pinker
Camille Cooper as Alison Clemens
Sam Scarber as Sidney Cooper
Richard Brooks as Rhino
Ted Raimi as Pac Man
Heather Langenkamp as Victim: Langenkamp previously portrayed the heroine Nancy Thompson in Craven's landmark films, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987). In this film, she portrays Horace Pinker's first victim.
Wes Craven as Man Neighbor
Jessica Craven as Counterperson: Jessica is the daughter of Craven.
Jonathan Craven as Jogger: Jonathon is the son of Craven and worked as the film's visual effects coordinator.
Dr. Timothy Leary as the television evangelist
John Tesh as the TV newscaster
Michael Matthews as Evil Mouth
Kane Roberts as Road Worker: The guitarist from Alice Cooper's band.
Eugene Chadbourne as Man in Bar
According to Craven, the film was severely cut for an "R" rating. It took around thirteen submissions to the Motion Picture Association of America to receive an "R" instead of an "X". Some scenes that were cut included Pinker spitting out fingers that he bit off of a prison guard, a longer and more graphic electrocution of Pinker, and a longer scene of a possessed coach stabbing his own hand. Despite fan interest, an uncut version has never been released.
Shocker was released on October 27, 1989 in 1,783 venues, earning $4,510,990 in its opening weekend, ranking second behind the third weekend of Look Who's Talking. The film ultimately grossed $16,554,699 in the United States.
The film received mostly negative reviews from critics and holds a 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 20 reviews. In Wes Craven: The Art of Horror, John Kenneth Muir notes the parallels between Shocker and A Nightmare on Elm Street, stating:
was basically Craven's response to the Freddy Krueger film series and to Universal Studios, which informed him they wanted their very own horror franchise à la A Nightmare on Elm Street
. Accordingly, moments in Shocker
echo Craven's earlier milestone film. Both films open with grisly serial killers working in their den of evil, both feature non-believing parents who also happen to serve on the local police force (in Shocker
, Michael Murphy played the John Saxon role), and both films also dramatize the now-expected "rubber reality" dream sequences. Further enhancing the connection between the world of Fred Krueger and Horace Pinker, the villain of Shocker
, was the fact that Pinker's first victim in the film was Heather Langenkamp, the actress who had so ably defeated Freddy in 1984."
While examining how similar the two films are, he also noted the differences between the two and praised the film's finale:
"Craven also made Shocker
very different from Elm Street
in some significant ways. It was less grim, and at times it was downright funny. The media played an important role in Shocker
and so Entertainment Tonight's
John Tesh had a small role. When lead Peter Berg chased Mitch Pileggi through the "universe of television" at the film's finale, Shocker
really took off. Berg ended up not inside a boiler room hell, but in an episode of Leave It to Beaver
and the film Frankenstein
! With Pileggi and Berg jumping in and out of television sets at random, confronting couch potatoes who believed they were witnessing "the ultimate in audience participation television" and even meeting Timothy Leary as a cheesy TV evangelist, the final sequence of the film is hilarious. Shocker'
s final 20 minutes are a stylistic special effects tour de force
and well worth the price of admission."
The film was released on DVD by Universal Studios in 1999. It was subsequently re-released by the studio in 2007 as a double feature, alongside Craven's The People Under the Stairs. The film's first Blu-ray edition was released by Shout! Factory on September 8, 2015.
Shocker received a novelization.
Original musical contributions were made by Alice Cooper (who would later play Freddy Krueger's abusive foster father, Mr. Underwood, in Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare), Megadeth who covered Alice Cooper's 1973 hit "No More Mr. Nice Guy".The movie's "title song" was recorded by The Dudes of Wrath, which was composed of Kiss' Paul Stanley and producer Desmond Child both on vocals, Vivian Campbell and Guy Mann-Dude on guitars, Whitesnake's Rudy Sarzo on bass guitar, and Mötley Crüe's Tommy Lee on drums. Also backing vocals by Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony and Kane Roberts. The soundtrack was released on Capitol/SBK Records in 1989.
Soundtrack listing:"Sword & Stone" — Bonfire
"No More Mr. Nice Guy" — Megadeth
"Shocker" — The Dudes of Wrath
"Timeless Love" — Saraya
"Demon Bell — The Ballad of Horace Pinker" – Dangerous Toys
"Love Transfusion" — Iggy Pop
"Different Breed" — Dead On