The Rocky Horror Picture Show Sequel You Can’t Watch

By Zack Zagranis | Published

shock treatment

Chances are, even if you’ve never seen it, you’re aware of the cult midnight musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But what about the sequel Shock Treatment? Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of it. Nobody has.

Shock Treatment

When I say nobody, obviously, I’m exaggerating—but only slightly. In case you haven’t figured it out, Shock Treatment wasn’t exactly a success at the box office.

Not only did the movie fail to make a splash on the big screen, but initially, it didn’t even earn a cult following like its predecessor. Even today, the film isn’t available on any official streaming service.

To be fair, the original Rocky Horror Picture Show was a one-of-a-kind cult phenomenon. It, too, flopped initially but received a second life through midnight showings, during which audience members dressed up as their favorite characters and brought props.

Society’s outcasts, shunned by the mainstream, found comfort in a movie just for them. Rocky Horror‘s legend grew organically in a way Shock Treatment couldn’t replicate.

Tim Curry Said No Thank You

Not that it didn’t try. Writer Richard O’Brien initially wanted to create a movie that was more closely related to Rocky Horror. Shock Treatment was originally titled Rocky Horror Shows His Heels and would have revolved around Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s resurrection.

The story would have followed a reborn Frank as he tracks down Janet, who is pregnant with his child. At some point Brad and Janet would have broken up and when the movie started Brad and Dr. Scott would be lovers.

Unfortunately for O’Brien, Tim Curry wanted nothing to do with a Rocky Horror sequel. O’Brien wisely decided that no one else could step into Curry’s stilettos and abandoned Rocky Horror Shows His Heels.

Instead, while working with Rocky Horror director Jim Sharman, O’Brien developed a concept that would focus on Brad and Janet—the square protagonists of the first movie.

Brad And Janet Were Out, Too

Sadly, Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon, the actors who portrayed Brad and Janet in the original film, would not reprise the roles in Shock Treatment.

In their place, O’Brien cast Cliff De Young as Brad and Jessica Harper, star of the original Suspiria, as Janet. While the replacements do what they can with the material, they never feel like the “real” Brad and Janet.

Meanwhile, several supporting actors did return for Shock Treatment, including writer Richard O’Brian, who portrayed Riff Raff in Rocky Horror.

However, O’Brian and the other returning cast members didn’t reprise their original roles but played entirely new characters. This is thought to be yet another reason why the movie failed.


Like its predecessor, the plot of Shock Treatment exists mainly as a device to get from one song to the next. Brad and Janet are now married and living in Denton, a small town that has been taken over by a television station.

As a result, the entire population lives in one giant studio. Think of the Mojoworld in X-Men, and you’ll get the idea.

Brad and Janet are sitting in the audience of a game show called Marriage Maze when they’re suddenly chosen to be contestants.

Brad is deemed “an emotional cripple” and sent to Dentonvale, a mental hospital that’s also another TV show. Meanwhile, fast-food magnate Farley Flavors chooses Janet to be Denton’s newest superstar.

Failed To Recapture The Magic

The movie was released exclusively as a midnight movie on Halloween of 1981. This time, the outcasts didn’t accept O’Brian’s inspired camp lunacy—perhaps because they knew they were being marketed to.

As the late Roger Ebert put it during one of his television movie reviews, “Cult film audiences want to feel that they have seen the genius of something that everybody else hates. They discovered this film; they know it’s good, but everyone else thinks it’s garbage.”

In other words, you can’t make a so-bad-it’s-good film on purpose. By trying to capture the same vibe as Rocky Horror, Shock Treatment ended up feeling artificial and hollow.

Watch It If You Can Find A Way To Do It

shock treatment


The movie eventually earned a cult following, albeit a small one. Today, fans praise Shock Treatment for pioneering the idea of constant surveillance as entertainment 17 years before The Truman Show. It’s also credited for predicting the reality TV boom of the 21st Century.

While it isn’t officially streaming anywhere, Shock Treatment has been uploaded in its entirety to several YouTube channels—although the quality of the uploads varies. It’s not a great movie, but if you’re a fan of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Shock Treatment is worth checking out as a curiosity. The music is pretty good, too.