The Schlocky Horror Picture Show: Shock Treatment

You can’t manufacture a cult film, it has to happen organically. Some movies are so weird, bad or generally psychotronic that they struggle to find an audience upon their initial release…and only do so years after the fact. The greatest example of a cult flick is, of course, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the 1975 sci-fi/musical comedy that itself went from flop to midnight movie sensation (so much so that the argument can be made that it has become mainstream). The point here is that sometimes when filmmakers attempt to create a cult movie out of the gate, things can go very bad, very quick.

Enter Shock Treatment. This largely forgotten 1981 follow-up to Rocky Horror continues the misadventures of Brad Majors and Janet Majors (played here by Cliff De Young and Jessica Harper), as their hometown of Denton, Texas becomes transformed into a television studio in which the lives of its residents become fodder for programming. While the movie was an eerily prescient foreshadowing of reality television and lack of privacy in our modern times, it never really quite connects with the audience. This is something of a shame, as Rocky Horror creator Richard O’Brien (who appears here as the operator of a mental hospital who belts out the movie’s best song, the title track) re-teamed with the film’s director, Jim Sharman for this film — billed not as a sequel, but “an equal” to its predecessor. That’s not quite an accurate assessment, and while there are some memorable moments, more than anything Shock Treatment is an interesting failure. But not much else.

Here’s Siskel and Ebert’s review of the movie, which goes about as well as you’d expect:

And here’s the obscure 1981 television special The Rocky Horror Treatment, that examines the Rocky Horror phenomenon and promotes Shock Treatment:

Without the participation of Susan Sarandon, Tim Curry and Barry Bostwick, Shock Treatment was bound to disappoint. It’s currently out of print, so who knows, maybe it will find an audience yet.

This article originally ran earlier this year but we are reprinting it today as part of our 31 Days of Halloween posts.