Genre: Horror, Comedy
Starring: Michael Murphy, Mitch Pileggi, Peter Berg
Director: Wes Craven
With only the memory of one minor scene, it was with a little help from my friends that I re-discovered this classic that had eluded me for almost a decade. It didn't take me until the end of the opening theme tune (performed by the “Dudes of Wrath,” a combination of KISS's Paul Stanley, Leppard's Vivian Campbell, Whitesnake's Rudy Sarzo and Motley Crue's Tommy Lee as it would turn out) to realise I was on to a winner. The man famously responsible for the epic “Nightmare on Elm Street” saga returned for this underrated gem; clearly an idea he pitched without much success, for he settled for a low budget and cast of unknowns and created a B-Movie that feels like a spiritual successor to the now cult classic “Hausu.”
Opening in traditional slasher style, we learn of the epitome of evil “Horace Pinker;” obsessed with Black Magic he wades his way through peoples homes mercilessly slaughtering them all and leaving nobody alive to identify him all for no apparent reason. Enter young Jonathan Parker, a promising (American) football player – that is if he stopped sucking – with a mysterious connection to the killer, given the gift to see his murders moments before they happen. With his new found ability and the help of his father, also the detective on the case, he tracks down the killer and sends him to his death by electric chair, but what he didn't realise is that through magic he imbued himself with the ability of TV, and that the nightmare is far from over.
It's around this pivotal electric chair scene that the film really abandons all pretence of sensibility; the ram-packed forty minute “slasher” film is but a prologue for the real story to follow. Able to transfer his consciousness into a new body is nothing especially new but given the cast the acting is superb, each character is able to imbue elements of their own role with that of the mysterious killer lending an uncanny believability to their performance (if not the story at large), except ironically from the lead role, but this is a minor nuisance given his primary job of running from scene to scene. The only major hindrance to the film is it's “undulating” tension; the pace will pick up and slow down; a genius confrontation in the park turns into bland melodramatic argument, a necrophiliac love scene comes out of nowhere, and the whole film could have done with some more careful editing to better maintain the momentum.
The pretentious might make an argument about how this film is a statement that television is slowly killing the human race, but I'd be surprised if that was really his intention given the irony of the chosen medium, even given the undercurrent theme. Whether by accident or not, what Craven has delivered is nothing short of B-Movie gold, and those looking for something slightly more serious are clearly missing the point of B-Movies. The gore may not be as gratuitous as his past work and the plot doesn't make a shred of sense, but I can guarantee that despite being twenty years old you'll never see one quite like it. Full of witty one-liners, necrophilia and evil small children, this is a one-of-a-kind winner.