Newest Review: ... want to see this at some point; anyone else will probably want to stay well clear. Three stars out of five. The DVD is available f... more
Pinker/Parker sucker shocker
Member Name: sunmeilan
Disadvantages: Wooden acting, poor special effects
Directed by Wes Craven and released in 1989, I was surprised to find that I hadn't even heard of this film - the Nightmare on Elm Street films clearly eclipsed it. That is probably for a very good reason. It's not the worst horror I've ever seen, but the acting is wooden and the story is incredibly silly in a way that ultimately makes it a lot less memorable and frightening than the Nightmare on Elm Street films. Nevertheless, if you're a fan of horror films, then it is worth seeing, because it is entertaining.
Jonathan Parker, the lead role, is played by Peter Berg, and it has to be said he is universally awful throughout the film - mixed in with the ridiculous plot, however, this comes across as being quite funny and therefore highly entertaining. Everything Berg does appears forced. At the beginning of the film, he tries to show what a klutz Jonathan is, walking into goalposts and falling over things that most people couldn't miss. The aim is for him to look cute so that his love interest, Allison, will fall for him, but he just looks like an idiot and the relationship with Allison is so forced that it is painful to watch. At least he looks good! Berg has done a fair amount of acting since; I can only hope that he has improved as he went along, because judging by this, serious acting is not his strongpoint.
Much better is Mitch Pileggi as Horace Pinker. Again, it's hard to take the role too seriously though. Pinker is so evil, spitting invectives into everyone's face, always with an evil smile on his face so that the audience just knows he is not going to be easy to finish off. He is particularly fond of choice words of abuse, of which 'sucker' is the most polite I can write here. What I really enjoyed though was watching him pass into other people's bodies and seeing them take on his attributes - the little girl who swore like a trooper was perhaps going a bit too far (although I did laugh), but a lady and friendly football coach were really quite funny. The other actor worth mentioning is Michael Murphy as Lieutenant Parker. He wasn't very good, but he does have quite a pivotal role, and is quite funny to watch for his complete lack of acting skills.
The story really is terrible and there is little attempt to cover this up. There's a real mixture of serial killer drama and the supernatural - and it's probably the supernatural element that makes it so funny. This is largely because the special effects are so dreadful. Watching Pinker become electrocuted via a television, so that he is then able to enter other people's bodies via an electrical current is just not at all realistic. Nor is Allison's reappearance as a ghost. I appreciate that the film was made back in 1989, but I've seen films made before this that were way better - Poltergeist immediately springs to mind. The film was made on a budget and this is all too obvious. Had the effects not been quite so bad, this film would have been an awful lot better, although it may not have been so funny. It was the comedy that kept me watching, but I like humour in my horrors, whereas not everyone does.
This is a horror film and there are some very nasty moments that merit the classification of 18. The most horrifying time is probably during the electroction scene. Pinker is all set up to be electrocuted, in his chair with the head gear on etc, and then the lever is pulled down. There is a great deal of apparently burning flesh and indeed, Pinker's head is in a terrible state, even though he does not die (this happens quite early on, so I'm not giving too much away). I can imagine that children would find this very distressing, and a number of adults are not going to like it either. Apart from that, there are multiple stabbings throughout the film and there is a lot of swearing, so definitely not for those who don't like that sort of thing.
If you're into heavy metal, there's quite a reasonable sound track accompanying the film. I wasn't familiar with any of the tracks, but recognised the performers, including Megadeth and Iggy Pop. It's loud and aggressive and it fits the film very well.
There are just a couple of extras - the theatrical trailer and storyboards (the plot in pictures).
I'm glad I've seen this film; I like Wes Craven's work in general and it is good to have an overall picture of what he has done. Having said that, this is definitely not his best attempt at horror, and is only saved by the fact that he didn't try to make it too serious and a twist in the tale that comes towards the end. The twist should have been obvious, but I didn't see it coming and it was a good one. I think anyone who likes horror, especially budget horror, will probably want to see this at some point; anyone else will probably want to stay well clear. Three stars out of five.
The DVD is available from play.com for £3.99.
Running time: 109 minutes
Summary: Horror fans only and even then you might not like it