Picks and Pans Review: Shocker

updated 11/13/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/13/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Michael Murphy, Peter Berg

So how scummy is Wes Craven? Scummy enough, the writer-director proves here, to put a vile obscenity in the mouth of a little girl actress for no other reason than minor shock value. And that's the least of his transgressions.

As he has proved with his A Nightmare on Elm Street series, Craven is as tasteful as a septic system, as witty as a potato and as possessed of a sense of pace as a sidewalk. This tiresome horror film borrows liberally from Frankenstein, The Thing and various episodes of the old TV series The Outer Limits, yet still ends up as almost two hours worth of violent hemming and hawing.

Berg (Heart of Dixie) plays a college football star who has a psychic connection to a mass murderer. The murderer, Mitch (3 O'Clock High) Pileggi, is unmotivated, unrelenting and uninteresting. Berg helps his police detective foster dad, Murphy, catch the murderer. But when Pileggi is sent to the electric chair, the current does some mumbo jumbo on him and he not only stays alive but can move his essence from body to body.

This shifting around drones on for quite a while. Pileggi even gets into the little girl, Murphy (who feigns a heart attack on a radio tower to free himself) and Berg's favorite reclining chair. Berg's girlfriend, Cami (Like Father, Like Son) Cooper, one of the murderees, returns to flounce around as a ghost from time to time and gives Berg her necklace, which has some strange power.

Craven has proved how shameless he can be, casting two of his children in minor roles in the film, giving them the questionable privilege of appearing to be merely chips off the old slime. (R)

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