[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: Day 30 – The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

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Director: Jim Sharman

Cast: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick

Screenplay: Jim Sharman, Richard O’Brien

100 mins. Rated R.

 

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is, like one of its characters, something that keeps coming back. Every year, it is a ritual to which many dance the Time Warp all the way to Transexual Transylvania. The film currently holds the record for longest running theatrical release, as it has been playing at theaters since 1975. Quite a feat to behold. Explaining the plot isn’t easy, so I’ll try to be as literal as possible.

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The Rocky Horror Picture Show is an homage to older RKO and Universal style horror movies mixed with the B-style eroticism of the Hammer Horror films of yesteryear. Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick, TV’s Spin City, Hannah Montana: The Movie) and his new fiancé Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon, Thelma & Louise, Tammy) have just set out to visit an old friend when their car stalls. They follow a road leading to an old castle where they hope to get a phone to call a tow. The castle is the resident of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry, TV’s The Wild Thornberrys, Burke and Hare), a twisted doctor of sinful pleasures who is making a man for himself. The castle is home to many strange faces like the handyman Riff Raff, his sister Magenta, and a groupie named Columbia. As the storm settles them in, Brad & Janet discover that this is no picnic.

I love this movie. I love that it isn’t laid out in stone as far as interpretations go. I love that it embraces its badness and has a lot of fun. This is the kind of movie to watch with a bunch of friends and a couple of brews, and the rest of the world has realized that too. Around the country and other parts of the world, midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show play, encouraging audience participation (yelling at the screen, throwing items like rice at the opening wedding scene) and shadowcasts (performers acting in front of the film as it plays in the background). It is a naturally occurring phenomenon in the film world.

I really enjoy the performances, from actors that are having fun making a movie and it shows through. For many years, Tim Curry was able to convince people that someone else played Frank-N-Furter, that is how abstract the performance is. Sarandon and Bostwick are lovable 50’s and have such an arc in their character development, albeit a tragic story.

Let’s not forget the incredible musical numbers. Everyone knows about the Time Warp and Science Fiction, Double Feature, but I enjoy songs like Over at the Frankenstein Place and Dammit Janet, Eddie’s Teddy and Touch-a Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me are terrific songs as well.

Sure the film is far from being a perfect film, but it continues to age very well. This is a great movie, so perfectly constructed that it is difficult to ascertain which parts were accidental and which were purposely accidental…I guess.

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Let’s Do the Time Warp Again!

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

ps. Only watch the U.K. Version, the extra song in it actually sums up the characters’ journeys perfectly.

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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