U.S.A. | 2006
Directed by Brett Piper
Misty Mundae
Julian Wells
A.J. Khan
Color | 88 Min. | R
Format: DVD (R0 - NTSC)
E.I./Shock-O-Rama Cinema
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
    9   10 = Highest Rating  
In her last film for E.I. Productions, Misty Mundae (AKA Erin Brown) gets to poke cheeky fun at her image as a direct-to-video softcore sex starlet.
    Shock-O-Rama is
writer-director-FX artist Brett Piper's affectionate homage to the genre pics of the drive-in era, a horror/sci-fi/sexploitation comedy with the emphasis on humor. Unlike E.I.'s typical comedy product it is not a spoof in the vein of such softcore lesbian sex romps as Play-Mate of the Apes or Spiderbabe. Sex and nudity have their place — you can't have the likes of Misty Mundae and Julian Wells in an exploitation flick and not get 'em naked at some point — but they aren't the raison d'etre. It was also shot on film as opposed to video, giving it a much more polished look and feel.
    Misty's scenes function as a wraparound plot device in which two other unrelated tales are inserted, making it an anthology film. She plays Rebecca Raven, reigning queen of low budget exploitation pictures — a thinly-veiled send-up of her E.I. persona. Frustrated at being pigeonholed as a T&A horror bimbo, Rebecca hopes to leave the B-movie world behind in quest of more challenging, meaningful roles. Sleazy studio chief Frank (Michael Thomas), incensed by his star attraction's lack of gratitude, decides not to renew her contract — in effect, firing her. Getting sacked before she could quit wasn't part of Little Miss Diva's plan; with a profanity-laden tirade she storms out of the studio, bridges seemingly burned behind her. To get her head together Rebecca rents a picturesque old house in the country where she can relax and enjoy some tranquil solitude.
    The bloodthirsty zombie buried in the cellar — soon to be accidentally reanimated — isn't going to allow her a peaceful stay.
    Meanwhile, back at the studio, Frank and his assistant launch a mad scramble to find the "new Rebecca Raven" when the replacement actress they had already signed is arrested and jailed just days before shooting is to begin on their latest picture. This is how Shock-O-Rama's other two stories, or segments, come into play — they're 'movies within a movie', flicks screened by the studio chief in the course of an emergency talent search.
    Mecharachnia: Pint-sized alien criminals elude the intergalactic fuzz and escape to earth, crash-landing their tiny spaceship in a New Jersey junkyard. The yard's boorish, brawny owner (Rob Monkiewicz) and his motor-mouthed ex-girlfriend (Caitlin Ross), trapped inside, must battle the hostile invaders for survival... if they don't kill each other first.
    Lonely Are The Brain: Under the guise of dream experiments at the Center For Hypnomorphic Research, an evil disembodied super-brain from the future absorbs the subconscious emotional experiences of young, nubile female 'volunteers'. One of the test subjects (A.J. Khan) becomes suspicious when the project's foxy physician (Dr. Jekyll & Mistress Hyde's Julian Wells) starts appearing in her dreams, making bizarre, even frightening sexual advances...
    Intentionally campy, Shock-O-Rama is the kind of flick best viewed with your brain switched off and the bong fully loaded. It doesn't aspire to be anything more than that. Piper (A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell, Bite Me!) strives to meld his love of '50s drive-in fare with today's "Skinemax"-friendly exploitation conventions, the goal being to poke fun at the established clichés while at the same time embracing them. He's not always successful, due more to sketchy writing than budgetary limitations. (As with any comedy, some of the jokes fall flat. And the ribbing of zombie movie clichés, especially in recent years, has in itself become a cliché.) In the disc's supplements Piper states that the film cost about what it took to produce the original Night of the Living Dead almost 40 years ago — if so, it's a testament to him and his crew that Shock-O-Rama looks as good as it does. The old fashioned stop-motion effects (the Mecharachnia segment) and weird, Tim Burton-ish set designs (Lonely Are The Brain) were done very, very cheaply but are effective, even charming, nonetheless. The cast is game, too, with the major players acquitting themselves nicely... Seduction Cinema regular A.J. Khan (Suburban Secrets) is given the opportunity to actually act for a change and shows she's up to it; fans of Misty Mundae will enjoy seeing her spoof her manufactured image as a B-movie goddess. Julian Wells, whom I've never seen give a bad performance regardless of a film's content, lends Sharon Stone-style sex appeal as the sinister — and hot — Dr. Carruthers.
    Since it's not particularly shocking, Shock-O-Rama is going to disappoint those looking for grue-splattered horror. Horndogs expecting the wall-to-wall skin and softcore sexcapades characteristic of E.I.'s typical output will also be let down. But, provided you go in knowing it's a comedy (and you have a soft spot for classic cheese like The Brain from Planet Arous), you should have a enjoyable time with it.

Although the film had its premiere almost a year ago (and has played at festivals and conventions in the interim), E.I. has only now issued Shock-O-Rama on DVD. It's given a solid, extras-packed release, with the bonus features adding considerably to the overall value. There's certainly nothing to complain about vis a vis the anamorphic 1.78.1 widescreen transfer, which is very good considering the 16mm source. The disc's Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix won't tax your home theater setup but gets the job done admirably; dialog, music and sound effects are clean and clear.
    Bonus features are plentiful. An engaging audio commentary with Brett Piper and producer Michael Raso covers virtually every aspect of the film's production and is well worth a listen. A 6-minute featurette goes behind-the-scenes during shooting, showing cast and crew members mostly loafing during breaks. Another short featurette concerns the 2005 New York premiere and the post-screening party at some bar (after a bit of drinking). An audience Q&A session with Piper runs almost 5 minutes. The fourth and longest (16½ min.) featurette consists of interviews of Raso and Piper interwoven with film snippets. Finally, you get twelve trailers from E.I.'s Shock-O-Rama and Retro Shock-O-Rama DVD lines; Film Threat's Merle Bertrand contributes a booklet of liner notes.