Shocker, like writer-director Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street, makes little literal sense: It’s pure Day-Glo Freudian subtext. A teenager (Peter Berg) battles Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi), a killer who turns out to be his dad. Pinker gets the electric chair but passes his evil spirit from person to person in jolts of electricity. He eventually invades the TV airwaves in an effort to reach his son. The climactic scene has them fighting across the spectrum of channels, through westerns, soaps, and game show.

If Craven had any control, Shocker might be a good satire of TV culture; there certainly are nods in that direction. The problem is, there are nods in every direction. Unlike Cronenberg or Carpenter, Craven will never cross to the big time — his obsessions are penny-ante. But he does have a wicked sense for pop dread, and he doesn’t throw away a single idea. C

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