Directed by Brian Yuzna.
Starring Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards, Ben Meyerson, Charles Lucia and Heidi Kozak.
A young man thinks he doesn’t quite fit in with his family and friends, and then he discovers why…
Society is one of those surreal horror oddities that the late 1980s/ early 1990s seemed to produce in huge quantities. Sitting alongside other metaphorical weirdness of the time such as Parents and Meet the Applegates, Society was really a testing ground for Brian Yuzna, who had served as a producer on Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator and had been offered the sequel for his directorial debut, but Yuzna felt he wanted to try his hand at something else first and so he stepped behind the camera for this film.
And for a directorial debut it is remarkably confident and full of the visual style that Yuzna has become known for, helped along by some icky special effects work courtesy of Screaming Mad George (Return of the Living Dead III/Bride of Re-Animator). The story is one of paranoia and greed, and how the rich suck the life out of the poor – literally. But unlike a straightforward social commentary Yuzna wraps up his class war in a ballet of prosthetic effects designed to represent protagonist Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock – Baywatch) and his suspicions about his place in society. Whitney just doesn’t feel right about who he is and how he fits in with the people around him, a notion reflected in the fact that his parents treat his sister differently to how they treat him. Beginning to suspect that something incestuous may be afoot, Bill’s paranoia becomes justified when all of the secrets his upper class family are keeping become flesh, so to speak.
Society is a film that people generally love or hate. The very strange story and plot setup do lead somewhere and the final revelations are worth sticking around for if you’re a fan of gooey gore effects but modern audiences looking for that quick jump scare every few minutes may be put off by the off-kilter storytelling and aura of suspense that Brian Yuzna sets up. The film itself is very reminiscent of the early Stuart Gordon movies that Yuzna had worked on, and although it may lack Gordon’s more theatrical displays of workmanship – the acting isn’t great – Yuzna mixes psychological paranoia with a gross-out monster movie to startling effect, and as a whole it is a sick, twisted nightmare that simply wouldn’t get made today in the same way as it did back in 1989.
And for such a demanding film Arrow Films have packed out the dual format package with a ton of extras to enhance your viewing pleasure, including interviews with Brian Yuzna, Billy Warlock, Screaming Mad George and various other cast and crew. There is also an audio commentary with Brian Yuzna, writings on the film from genre expert Alan Jones and a comic book sequel, if the film itself left you wanting more. The 2K restoration looks pretty impressive, presenting a grain-free picture and a rich colour palette that makes the special effects look even more grotesque than they already did. As with most movies from the ‘80s, Society has dated a little, obviously in the fashion department and also the score, but the social commentary is still, possibly even more, relevant than it was back then. A true cult movie in every sense, Society isn’t for everybody but that is probably the key to what makes it work, and this glorious special edition is as definitive a version as you’ll ever see.
Society is available now on Blu-ray and for DVD rental.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★