Monday, 7 November 2016

Shock Treatment (1981)

Although The Rocky Horror Picture Show was not initially well-received, it became a cult favourite at midnight cinema screenings and went on to a long and lucrative run.  It was still being shown once a week at a cinema here until the early 90s, for instance, a good fifteen years after its release.

Sort-of sequel Shock Treatment has never achieved that same level of success, and it's not that hard to see why.  For one thing, it has some fairly significant structural flaws, such as "who the heck is actually the protagonist in this film?"; and then there's the fact that while it is as stylised and over the top as the earlier film, it lacks the titillation factor as an attraction.

I think its lack of success is a shame - though I'm pleased to read that there is some level of cult following for the film - because Shock Treatment is a much more ambitious film in terms of its narrative themes.  It lampoons pop psychology and televangelism, and makes some pretty prescient observations on 'reality TV', which was not yet a thing at the time it was made.

The film joins Brad and Janet several years after they got married.  They're living in the all-American town of Denton, where the the people are passionately proud of their community, and express that passion through a compulsive obsession with locally produced TV shows.  Brad doesn't really fit in, and his awkwardness is a constant embarrassment to Janet.  When they are called to participate in the show 'Marriage Maze', it sets in chain a series of events that threaten not only their relationship but their whole community.  Events that are being orchestrated by the mysterious sponsor of the TV station, Farley Flavors, who has an agenda of his own.

If you're at all a fan of off-the-wall, quirky musicals, I think Shock Treatment is worth your time.  Just don't expect Rocky Horror 2, or anything resembling a traditional film, really.

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