A few months ago, convicted murderer Ivan Moser (Lyle Alzado) had a date with the electric chair, though when the evening arrived he was more interested in watching the gameshow on television, not even touching his final meal. The priest tried to apply him to the matter in hand, but it was no use, even when he was actually sitting in the chair all he wanted was to see the TV to find out if he had the right answer, but they could not wait, the time was fast approaching when they had to flip the switch on him. However, once the power was on and it began to course through his body, there was a malfunction and if anything the breakdown had given Moser a new lease of life as he wasted the authorities and guards in the chamber with him...
For some reason, electric chairs became subject of a minor subgenre of horror in the late eighties, but Destroyer, originally called Shadow of Death, was probably the first, not that it really kicked things off as Gremlins had with another subgenre, the little monsters horror, it appeared there was something in the air and the idea caught on with low-ish budget shockers, though Shocker was possibly the highest profile of the lot. This briefly made it to cinemas but found its more obvious home on VHS where it was yet another rental for a Saturday night of not really caring what you were watching, at least you were killing time somehow. But for all those low expectations, this wasn't a bad example of its type.
It had a boost from its cast, mostly unknowns but with the benefit of two cult stars of different generations, Deborah Foreman and Anthony Perkins. They showed up about ten minutes in once we had established that Moser was still living in the prison which after the ensuing riot had been abandoned aside from the janitor Russell (Tobias Anderson - the character's name is misspelled on his uniform costume) who has done what looks to be a pretty poor job of keeping the place clean. No matter when what it is currently being used for is a film set as Perkins' director is shooting a women in prison flick there, so it doesn't exactly need to be spick and span, and besides he has other things to worry about.
One of those worries was not stuntwoman Susan Malone played by Foreman at her usual bright and bouncy best, which makes her ordeal at Moser's hands in the second half a shade too gruelling and hard to appreciate even on a fright movie level. Though needless to say, she is able to turn the tables in typical final girl fashion by the very end, which contributes a certain satisfaction to the affair born of knowing the formula was not being messed around with, though that also meant there were no real surprises in Destroyer. Nevertheless, if you wanted an unpretentious horror thriller that may not have rocked any boats but was reasonably well presented within its means, then you could have done worse.
And if you were remembering watching this sort of material in the heydays of rentals, then you wouldn't have much to complain about as far as nostalgia went, it was a very generic but briskly served up production, and if Perkins was not called upon to flex his acting muscles he did at least add a sardonic air when the film appeared to be commenting on its own limitations and the trials of crafting one of these efforts. Not for nothing did Perkins float around the set on a crane like Peter O'Toole in The Stunt Man, which seemed to be a barely acknowledged influence, though after a while the actual director Robert Kirk (who went on to loads of television documentaries after this beginning in the business) forgot about all that and just concentrated on Moser picking his way through the cast. This was probably the best role football player turned actor Alzado ever had, and he was certainly enjoying himself (he would die of a brain tumour brought on, he said, by his steroid abuse shortly after), which added more colour to a stock part than perhaps it needed, welcome as it was. But for her fans, watching Foreman kick ass (eventually) was likely enough to recommend it. Music by Patrick O'Hearn.