HIGH VOLTAGE HORROR II

Posted on Aug 13, 2012 in 80's Horror, All Reviews, Best of the Best, Please Rewind: Revisiting My Youth | 4 comments

THE HORROR SHOW vs. SHOCKER

Shocker (1989)

It’s time for another slaughterhouse showdown here at Tavern of Terror. While our previous entry Let’s Commit Aerobicide caused some discussion, it also pertained to some rather hard to find flicks, Death Spa and Killer Workout. This new title bout pits up two movies that are better known, especially Shocker, though they too have esoteric appeal. Both of these movies came out in the same yearboth were efforts by horror movie legends (Shocker was written and directed by Wes Craven and The Horror Show was produced by Sean S. Cunningham) and both have a very similar concept behind them: a serial killer goes to the electric chair and becomes an electric supernatural slasher.

Shocker actually belongs in my Please, Rewind categoryas it was an enormous part of my tween years. But sentimentality aside, I want to put ‘ol Horace Pinker toe-to-toe with Max Jenke and see who proves the more victorious villain. We already covered The Horror Show in our last review, so now let’s dig down into Shocker and see how it stands up so we can crown a winner in our electro-slasher showdown!

 

SHOCKER (1989)

I had the Shocker soundtrack even before I saw the movie. Loaded with songs by Megadeth, Alice Cooper, Dangerous Toys, Iggy Pop and many more, this was a heavy metal event in ’89. I think Metal Edge covered it even more than Fangoria did.

The movie, however, became a treasure to me as well when I was a twelve-year-old aspiring horrorhound. Filled with possession, serial murder, ghosts, nightmare premonitions and enough blood to start a bank, Shocker titillated my senses as a young horror fan and Craven’s creative script helped open my imagination to the limitless possibilities of the genre.

I have seen this movie so many times that I could review it in my sleep, but I wanted to give both films a fair fight in this face off, so I watched them both again: The Horror Show for the second time and Shocker for what really must be the fortieth time.

The movie begins in a filthy, disheveled cable repairman’s warehouse. We follow a limp leg being dragged by the other as we meet Horace Pinker for the first time. The title song kicks in as Pinker bitch-slaps his TV, and a pile of skulls come on screen, being molested by lightening. We know, right off, that this is a horror movie for the MTV generation (back when they played music videos). The title track is serenaded to us by The Dudes of Wrath, a heavy metal super-group, who came together just for this film, including metal gods KISS’ Paul Stanley and Desmond Child singing, Def Leppard’s Vivian Campbell and Guy Mann-Dude on guitars, Whitesnake’s Rudy Sarzo on bass guitar, and Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee on drums.

Most 80’s horror movies wish they had a title track this freakin’ awesome. I actually had the reprise of this song played at my wedding reception. No lie.

Anyway, Pinker is our antagonist here, a vicious serial killer with a knife that would give Rambo a boner. He is a night slasher, the kind of sick piece of crap who sneaks into homes at night and butchers entire families just because he’s an evil fuck.

Enter our hero, Jonathan, played horribly by Peter Berg who spends the entirety of the movie talking and acting as if he is always trying to swallow a golf ball. He speaks with a mouth full of shit and always seems like he is struggling to breathe. He is fuckin’ terrible in this but the movie transcends him, so read on.

John is a college football star with some good friends including his pal Lionel and his love interest Allison, who is painfully beautiful. After a clumsy football practice, John goes home with Allison only to be followed by ghostly children who don’t make any sense but still spook me twenty-three years later. This walk home turns out to be a physic nightmare, and John happens to come face to face with the town’s night slasher in this premonition just as he is killing John’s mother and siblings. John wakes up in a sweat to be comforted by Allison who whispers every line she has in the movie. John’s Dad calls, and John finds out that unfortunately his dream has come true.

Craven does a nice job foreshadowing here with the nightmares John has, utilizing the horror-master techniques that worked so well for him in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

John quickly realizes his mental link to Pinker, and tries to use it to help track him down, working with his cop foster-father. In the meantime he relaxes in his vibrating recliner, which he somehow owns even though most of us lived off of Ramen Noodles at his age, and he spends time not drinking and not having sex with his sexy blonde girlfriend, even when she bathes at his house with the door open.

John is our male survivor girl, you see?

He gives Allison a special necklace for her birthday, which later becomes like Pinker’s kryptonite, but for now it’s just a necklace. He leaves her alone to be attacked by Pinker, of course, in a brief but jarring scene that must have made a million teenage girls scream. This is where the bathroom is first transformed into a Hell-scape of blood. Craven returns to it often throughout the film to great, chilling effect.

Johathan, having lost so many to Pinker, vows revenge. He then recruits his pal Lionel to watch him as he sleeps so he can confront Pinker in a dream. Yes, I know, this is all too familiar, but at least it’s coming straight from Craven, unlike Bad Dreams.

Eventually, in a non-dream pursuit, Pinker and John have a rooftop fight worthy of Roddy Piper. Pinker is captured by the police and before you know it its time for his execution, the film wasting no time the way real life courts do.

Pinker’s execution scene is lead by Megadeth’s gnarly cover of the Alice Cooper classic “No More Mr. Nice Guy”. These metal tracks make the movie fun, unlike the score that sounds a lot like a full orchestra falling down a flight of stairs.

Seriously, it is distracting.

Anyway, Pinker had one last request: to have a TV in his cell. He uses the set to perform a last minute satanic ritual that makes a huge pair of Rolling Stone lips pop out of his set to give him super powers.

Yeah. I know. Awesome, dude!

Two guards think Pinker is toast, so they give him mouth-to-mouth, and Pinker gives us some funny gore and one-liners. He is then taken to the chair where his final words are a confession to John that he is biological father.

Look in your heart, Luke! You know it to be true!

Pinker doesn’t die right away either. Like Max in The Horror Show, he grooves on the juice and becomes an electro-phantom of Spider-Man comic proportions. But first, he starts jumping from body to body in a possession spree; starting with the medical examiner he enters in order to escape the prison.

As John goes for a stroll in the park, we get treated to Pinker’s possession routine as he jumps bodies, most hilariously being the possession of a little girl who becomes a foul-mouthed bulldozer operator under the power of Pinker.

Pinker also manages to snag John’s special necklace, the one he gave to Allison before she became a human smoothie, and the only thing that can hurt Pinker or at least make him leave the bodies he has possessed. Pinker throws it in the lake, really dicking John over.

So John turns to his coach and teammates for help and they plan a diving mission, but Pinker has nefarious plans of his own. John dicks around giving the audience the tired bullshit dialogue of “(Blank) is gonna happen… I can feel it” just to move the story along. Then he eventually meets up with Pinker again, this time with the help of his ghost girlfriend who shoots white lightening from her mammary glands.

Any Dr. Rockso fans out there?

Pinker discovers he doesn’t need to restrict himself to human bodies for travel and so he zaps himself through a wall socket. Like in The Horror Show, our hero gets blamed for the murders that happen after the killer has been sent to the chair, but John is helped by his friend Lionel, who frees him before he can be hauled off.

Eventually, John recovers the necklace with the help of his otherworldly lady (who he is strangely afraid of now) and sets up a televised showdown with Pinker in which he plans to shut the power off and banish Pinker to the phantom zone forever. His plan is preposterous but it leads to the film’s most fun, insane scene where Pinker and John have a channel surf battle where they leap from show to show and beat the shit out of each other, all while we get to listen to Dangerous Toys.

The final act becomes silly as John incorporates a remote control, but the ride getting there is chilling, gore-filled and great, pumped with classic 80’s metal, 80’s horror movie goodness and surging with a highly original concept.

 

SHOWDOWN RESULTS

More imaginative, stylish and well paced, Shocker really wipes the floor with The Horror Show, but what can anyone expect? Craven is a rare talent, a good writer as well as a good director, and Shocker, while not being one of his best movies, still annihilates the watered down and uninspired The Horror Show. Pinker is a more entertaining villain, inhabiting entertainment centers and even possessing a recliner in a scene that gets me every time.

Before Fallen and even Jason Goes to Hell, Horace Pinker was jumping from body to body as a possession slasher. This was a new idea at the time and pretty badass. The Horror Show doesn’t offer anything this clever.

Shocker, hands down, wins this bout.

By the way, between Shocker and Stallone’s Cobra, I was convinced that the world was overwrought with maniacs who would creep into your house at night and slay your family for no reason. Then a man named William Cruise shot up the local grocery store in my hometown and I was sure of it!

Additionally, “The Shocker” went on to become a dirty hand gesture referencing a kinky sex act. This movie came before all of that, but it makes it extra funny that the guy’s name is Pinker!

 

Speaking of sex…..

CHICK OF THE LITTER

Allison played by Camille Cooper (The Lawnmower Man 2), one of my boyhood crushes. She’s even hot as a bloody ghost.

RATING

4.5 out of 5. This is a must see for fans of 80’s horror, and what horror fan isn’t a fan of that golden age?

 

BARTENDER’S NOTES

How about another blasphemous brew?

From one of our favorite breweries, Weyerbacher, comes this delicious Russian Imperial Stout aged in oak barrels. Heresy offers rich flavor, tasting of bourbon first but then offering chocolate and vanilla whispers. While the carbonation is gentle, it coats the mouth and manages to be very rich without being overly sugary. At 8% a bottle, a four pack of this bound to have you bangin’ your head to Shocker’s bad-ass soundtrack, and the electric label ties in rather nicely to our high voltage motif.

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4 Comments

  1. Shocker, FTW! I loved that movie so much as an early teen. Looks like I gotta pop this one in again for another watch.

  2. It’s always worth a revisit! So is the soundtrack!

  3. While I love Shocker and the soundtrack with no abandon, if you go for quality…as far as B-rated horror goes…fright fest,scares, and 80’s horror classic material, then the Horror Show wins the decision. Both Craven and Cunningham came up with the concept together and being friends/colleagues each competed against the other to see which interpretation was more accepted by the horror masses. Two distinct flavors in the horror world using the same idea. Wes using his dream-horror-trip with humor and mainstream mtv-esque type filming to appeal to more kids and with a big budget. While Sean took the independent film route and kept to B-horror format(ironically the same format made fun of by Wes in Scream and gave him a comeback in the 90’s). If you look at them side by side you see the one that had marketing, and the other that went direct to video…however, you watch them at 2 in the morning and you will see the distinct differences in the main characters and the plot. The Horror Show is definitely the more sinister and darker, and it doesn’t seem like a jibe at horror movies…it definitely wouldn’t be described as fun, especially if you are in a dark room and hear the Jenke laugh. Sean succeeded in making this concept an actual horror movie, while Wes made the movie feel like a kind of Nightmare on Elm Street knockoff.

    IMO they could have franchised the the main characters in either of these movies had they taken it seriously or not had other more profitable franchises to support. But you can clearly see that Sean tried to make a horror film, and Wes was just making another movie. Why Shocker remains more impressionable to date is because of the air play received(HBO,Showtime..etc and marketing-sountracks,posters,dolls, etc.) versus the non-existent USA Up All Night showings and Mom&Pop video stores that actual had a copy of the Horror Show.

    (Speculation) It was like they had a bet and said that you make fun of the idea and horror format and take the big budget…and I’ll take the no-budget by the book format horror film and we’ll see what this next generation of kids really want in a horror movie….I guess Wes won…and then he made Scream from that bet. ;)

    Winner(actual scares,jumps,and FX makeup,and the creepy laugh)-The Horror Show

    Runner-up(Awesome soundtrack,star power,Visual FX, and curb appeal and fun)- Shocker

  4. Rye, I dig your enthusiasm, and I must admit that I agree with MANY of your points. I do find SHOCKER to be more enjoyable on repeat viewing, but THE HORROR SHOW is a more straight forward horror film. I dig them both, but must choose SHOCKER, but still your comment was very insightful and it is obvious that you are a true horror fan. I dig that!

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