Brad Majors (Cliff De Young) and his wife Janet (Jessica Harper) have decided to visit the local TV studio in the town of Denton, but little do they know that there's trouble ahead. They take their place in the audience and watch a performance of Denton's anthem, but Brad is noticeably out of time with the hand clapping of those around him. Next up is the current affairs show where presenter Betty Hapschatt (Ruby Wax) interviews Judge Oliver Wright (Charles Gray), but what the studio wants to put on is their popular gameshow "Marriage Maze", and who should be the contestants plucked from the crowd but Brad and Janet? However, someone has a good reason for picking them, for the studio head is none other than...
...ah, but that would be telling. When Shock Treatment was initially released, the filmmakers were at great pains to point out that this was an "equal" not a sequel to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, even if it did feature many of the same cast (supporting cast, naturally - Susan Sarandon was getting too famous, for one), was directed by the same man, Jim Sharman, and was a musical written by the same authors, Richard Hartley and Richard O'Brien (who, as in RHPS, also appears). But that cosy subversion and sentimental endorsement of the wild side of life of the original was missing here.
What you got instead was a satire on television, one of the more obvious subjects to be made fun of - even television does it frequently (it should be noted that the script was not the first choice due to production difficulties). The broadcasting company head is Farley Flavors (played by De Young as well) and he is infatuated with Janet so has set up the whole game show to get Brad into his mental health programme, which essentially means Brad is tied up in a straitjacket, locked in a cage and tranquilised to the point of insensibility. For most of the film, I might add.
All the way through various characters burst into song, and the music isn't bad at all, it's just that many of the tunes are disappointingly similar and you won't find a catchiness of "Time Warp" proportions either. The same moves towards subversion are there, but without any showstopping numbers to back them up, the whole comes across are more sarcastic than biting. Harper as Janet probably benefits the best, with a strong voice and at least some change in her personality to give the appearance of progress in the plot, but everyone else is relentlessly one note (if you'll pardon the pun).
Janet is persuaded to be the new star of Denton TV, and the audience present (who sleep in the studio!) are happy to go along with that, turning her into a star overnight. Everything is staged in the studio which doubles as a mental hospital (a dig at psychiatry - well, why not?), and the stark white sets, with their padded walls, lend the proceedings a distinctive look. The cast has some interesting faces such as Rik Mayall and Wax participating in dance routines, or future pop star Sinitta Renet as a backing singer, but it's only really Barry Humphries as the creepy gameshow host, who may or may not be blind, who adds an edge. After the din is over, you may well be wondering what the point was, and pondering how a movie cult can't always be manufactured, if indeed they can at all.