Wes Craven's horror pictures always have a few wild ideas knocking around inside them, and this 1989 slashfest is no exception. The electrocution of a mass murderer turns into a kind of cosmic jump-start: evil Horace Pinker is reborn as an elusive electronic phantom, capable of leaping from one body to another. (This trick is also used to good effect in The Hidden and Fallen.) Pinker's a stinker, and Craven was clearly trying to set up another franchise villain in the vein of his Nightmare on Elm Street champ, Freddy Krueger--perhaps a bit too baldly. However, amidst the mayhem, the film's real subject is the poisonous presence of mass media, as Pinker (played by The X-Files' Mitch Pileggi) insinuates himself as a free-floating spirit run amok in television itself. In its own pulp way, Shocker gets at the heart of media-culture inanity quicker than a ten-week college class on the subject, and although Craven occasionally lapses into generic bloodletting, he always snaps right back with some crazy angle on the TV nation. The hero is played by a young Peter Berg, the Chicago Hope star who would go on to direct his own shocker, Very Bad Things. Shocker failed to catch on with audiences (somewhere there's a warehouse full of unsold Horace Pinker action figures), but it's definitely worth a look for horror fans. --Robert Horton
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