The second of four Donald Strachey movies starring Chad Allen (following Third Man Out) sees the gay actor back as the gay detective, this time delving into the exceedingly dodgy world of ex-gay therapy. Strachey is hired by a young man, Paul Hale, who almost immediately afterwards turns up dead, after apparently killing himself. While Donald isn’t sure exactly why he was hired, he starts to investigate the death, which leads him to the door of the Phoenix Foundation and its director Dr. Trevor Cornell, who practices controversial techniques that attempt to turn gay people straight.
Strachey soon starts to uncover a tangled web of deceit, confusion and lies, as the motivations of those seeking to become straight get clearer as well as the motivations of those offering the therapy. It also becomes apparent that Hale’s death wasn’t a suicide.
While Shock To The System does have a tendency towards being a little cheesy and a tad TV-movie-of-the-week, it’s an entertaining movie that manages to take on a tough subject and not get too preachy about it. There’s little doubt that the film doesn’t think much of ex-gay therapy, but it does a decent job of letting the actions of the characters condemn it rather than painting everyone in it involved as a cartoon, moustache-twirling villain.
It’s also great to see a film with a gay lead character who’s in a stable, loving relationship. It’s surprisingly rare, but acts here as a great anchor for Strachey’s character while he’s out righting wrongs and getting into precarious situations. Chad Allen put in a strong performance in the lead role. It’s a shame that since Allen’s enforced outing, his career does seem to have been affected, as he’s a charismatic actor who should have gone on to bigger and better things.
While we got Third Man Out and Shock To The System on DVD in the UK, sadly the third and fourth Donald Strachey movies – On The Other Hand Death and Ice Blues – have never made it over here. Let’s hope that one day they do.
Overall Verdict: A fun and entertaining private eye movie, with a gay twist.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac