[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.

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 7 – Suspiria (1977)

suspiria1977a

Director: Dario Argento

Cast: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci, Miguel Bose, Alida Valli, Joan Bennett, Barbara Magnolfi, Dario Argento

Screenplay: Dario Argento, Daria Nicolodi

92 mins. Rated R.

 

As you go through life, you always hear about the different films you need to see. For me, Suspiria is definitely one of those films. Everyone who knows me knows about my love of horror, and yet, famed director Dario Argento (Phenomena, Dracula 3D) always slipped by me. Until Now. This year, I decided it was time to discover Argento. So I picked his most famous film.

 

Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper, TV’s It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Minority Report) a ballet student from America, has arrived in Germany to develop her talents at the famous Tanz Dance Academy. But just as Suzy shows, another student, Pat, is fleeing for her life. Pat escapes to a friend’s home, explaining that something horrible is going on at Tanz before a mystical force preys on her. Suzy too begins to discover that there is indeed something very strange going on, and as she succumbs to fainting spells and horrific visions, it is clear that something evil is after her.

The most powerful element of Suspiria is its beauty, and I’m not just referring to its lead. This is an elegant film with stunning use of primary colors, giving the movie a unreal and nightmarish feel, like a child’s bad dream. The dreamlike quality is furthered by the childish dialogue of its main characters.

I can’t say that the visuals are the only great element at play here. There is a terrific score from progressive rock band Goblin. This is music that is often imitated but rarely equaled in a horror film.

Jessica Harper leads the cast fine, though the practice of dubbing in Italian horror back in the 70s causes a bit of difficulty in really conveying emotion throughout. She is matched by Joan Bennett (TV’s Dark Shadows, Father’s Little Dividend) and Alida Valli (The Third Man, Eyes Without a Face) as Madame Blanc and her instructor Miss Tanner, respectively.

suspiria1977b

Suspiria is well-acted, beautifully shot, and viscerally audible. The film, based on a lie by Dario’s lady-friend and co-screenwriter Daria Nicolodi, has aged very well. The first film in what Argento refers to as his “Three Mothers” Trilogy, it was followed by Inferno and The Mother of Tears, and I can’t wait to get to more from this legendary filmmaker.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑