[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 6 – Shock Treatment (1981)

 

Director: Jim Sharman

Cast: Jessica Harper, Cliff DeYoung, Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Little Nell, Charles Gray, Barry Humphries

Screenplay: Richard O’Brien, Jim Sharman

94 mins. Rated PG.

 

Okay, so technically, I’m not sure you can call Shock Treatment a horror film. But it is a little unnerving, and I do always watch it in October right after Rocky Horror Picture Show, so screw you, I’m doing it.

Newlyweds Janet (Jessica Harper, Suspiria, Minority Report) and Brad (Cliff DeYoung, Flight of the Navigator, Wild) are not in a great place in their relationship. Janet yearns for freedom and excitement and Brad is, well, boring, and in the town of Denton, where all the townspeople gather to watch TV shows on a giant set all hours of the day, boring is a death sentence. Brad is imprisoned on the reality soap Dentonvale, where hosts Dr. Cosmo (Richard O’Brien, Dark City, The Stolen) and Nation (Patricia Quinn, Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, The Lords of Salem) McKinley seek to help fix the nervous wreck. All the while, Janet is being seduced by her newfound stardom and the attention of the rich fast food mogul Farley Flavors who wishes to take Janet for his very own.

Shock Treatment is…weird. Even by Rocky Horror standards. Rather than make a straight sequel to RHPS, director Jim Sharman (The Night, The Prowler, Summer of Secrets) elected to create a wholly new musical alongside original scribe Richard O’Brien. And while I would have preferred a more traditional sequel, this follow-up does have its own merits.

First of all, I need to address that Shock Treatment actually has its own underground fan base, comparatively-sized to its predecessor, and they live for the film. Many of the elements of the satirical story do mirror events currently going on in present day America. Our addiction to likes, shares, and reality TV is something that Shock Treatment does a tremendous job playing to. And many, but not all, of the songs are quite catchy in their own way.

Overall, this film does meander quite a bit without finding footing. Characters and plotlines are introduced without much care, but the themes stand tall enough not to take away. I was also disappointed by the recasting of Brad and Janet, as I feel their chemistry wasn’t strong enough to reflect the strain on their marriage. They seem at times to really hate one another, and that doesn’t work.

Shock Treatment is a rarity in the business, a film that is indescribably strange but pulls you in very capably. I always enjoy watching it, but it is flawed indeed and I personally find it to be a step down from Rocky Horror Picture Show. But that’s just me? So which fan club are you in?

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jim Sharman’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show, click here.

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