I first discovered Rocky Horror Picture Show one October on VH1. They used to play the movie constantly in honor of Halloween and even had a behind the music and where are they now episodes made specifically about the film. It was on the Behind the Music episode that I first heard of Shock Treatment. In the BTM the film is barely mentioned except that it was a sequel and it was unsuccessful.
College is when I really started to love Rocky Horror and thus searched out this “awful sequel”. It came out on DVD while I was working at a video store, I jumped at the chance to be the first person to rent it out. Perhaps that it was my low expectations from the start but I was blown away by how much I enjoyed this ‘sequel’.
It’s important to put quotes around the word sequel. While it’s from the same writing team and contains the continuation of Brad and Janet’s life there is very little to do with Rocky Horror in this movie. While Rocky Horror played on the notes of old horror films and sexual freedom, Shock Treatment is a post-apoclyptic tale of America’s obsession with television.
The movie begins in an empty TV studio where people eagerly run in to sit in the audience of the hit game show Marriage Maze. Brad and Janet are the first contestants. Host Bert Schnick declares Brad an emotional cripple and sends him to Dentonville, a ‘hospital soap opera’. Dr. Cosmo and his sister Nation run Dentonville and immediately has Brad drugged, bound, gagged and placed into a padded cell.
Meanwhile Janet finds herself a new TV sensation adored by the audience in just a few days. Even the owner of the Denton TV station Farley Flavors’ has taken a liking to Janet. Will Brad be able to save Janet before Farley steals her from him? Well you’ll have to watch to find out.
Shock Treatment is even more interesting now that it probably was in 1981. It feels like a film attacking Reality Television years before Reality TV ever existed. The town is basically a TV station where everyone is either an actor or an audience member. It makes statements about how obsession with celebrity and most importantly it’s got a shit ton of catchy songs.
In many ways I find this film better than RHPS but at the end of the day you can’t beat Rocky Horror. Regardless whether you’re a fan or not of Rocky Horror, you should check this film out. It’s not as bad as you’ve been lead to believe.