28 September 2010 | gavin6942
Plenty of Potential If They Had Toned Down the Cheese
A young man (Peter Berg) dreams of a killer (Mitch Pileggi)... and the dream is all too real, with his mother and sister left dead in the morning. But that is just the beginning. Once captured and executed, the story is not over but only starts anew!
We start with a shape-shifting story inspired by "The Thing" and Jack Sholder's "The Hidden". Craven even borrowed a shot from "Midnight Run" of all places. Then add in executive producer Shep Gordon (Alice Cooper's agent), which caused the use of Cooper's "No More Mr. Nice Guy", a song that became the film's tagline. Even Cooper's guitarist has a cameo as a construction worker.
Peter Berg makes a strong lead, acting as the poor man's Christian Slater. This was one of his earliest roles, having started in the business as a production assistant. Today (2015), he has become a wildly successful actor, director and producer, most notably on "Friday Night Lights". Mitch Pileggi is also excellent, though a bit campy, and it is nice to see him in a tougher, darker role than FBI Director Skinner.
Mike Mayo says, "Wes Craven creates a fierce satire on television and the way the medium distorts our view of reality." Not sure I agree. If this is a "fierce satire" of anything, it is hidden well. I did not see a critique of television or the media in here at all, and Craven does not make a point of saying this was intended.
Mayo continues, saying, "the film is just another derivative exercise in obvious special effects, borrowing liberally from Craven's own work", including the fact Pinker "becomes a channel-surfing Freddy Krueger who returns to attack his enemies." This is absolutely true... Craven himself, in his audio commentary, notes just how similar "Shocker" and "Elm Street" are in theme.
Both Timothy Leary and Ted Raimi show up, so that's a plus. Even Wes Craven's daughter has a slight cameo. Worth singling out is stuntman Dane Farwell (who worked with Craven since "Serpent and the Rainbow"), who takes a few beatings, including running head first into a pole at full speed. Farwell doubled for Bill Paxton in "Rainbow", and had previously doubled him in "Spaceballs". Indeed, Peter Berg and Bill Paxton are physically similar in some ways.
The special effects had to be done in the last two weeks of post-production, which ate up much of the profits, after the original effects plan fell through. This last minute rush may explain any shortcomings. Craven himself says he can still see outlines that should not be visible. We also have an MPAA-required 13 cuts, which cut down on some of the darker moments (including the electrocution itself.)
If you happen to be one of those who contemplate movies too deeply, you can look for the intentional use of water in the film as a Freudian symbol, saying (among other things) that there is more hidden beyond the surface. Or the "father issues" Craven tried to present in regards to the poor relationship he had with his own father. Or, on the lighter side, you can ponder the legacy of John Tesh -- only a local TV reporter at the time (1989), but quickly catapulted to national stardom... was it this film?
Wes Craven fans will need to see this one, but may want to keep their expectations a little lower. Some parts, such as the possessed girl, are entertaining. But budget issues, special effect limitations, and a cheesy sense of humor make this much more a cult film than one of Craven's best. (For those who like a little horror cheese with their beer, this may actually be a great pick.)