Directed by Brian Yuzna.
Starring Billy Warlock, Connie Danese, Ben Slack, Evan Richards, and Devin DeVaquez.
Billy Whitley enjoys a life of wealth, popularity, and privilege in Beverly Hills, but he feels isolated from his family, feeling like he doesn’t belong. Suspecting he is adopted, Billy begins to dig deeper into the mystery of his family, uncovering a secret more horrifying than he could possibly imagine.
Margaret Thatcher once said, “…there’s no such thing as society”. I bring this up not as a means to analyze what she meant by her statement or to discuss the late Prime Minister and the legacy that has been the cause of decades of passionate debate. I honestly just needed a smart-sounding way to start this review.
This rather clumsy opening brings me to the subject of today’s review, Brian Yuzna’s gruesome horror satire that just so happens to be titled Society, a film that I suggest you never ever watch when eating.
Billy Warlock (a name that should belong to a crime-fighting heavy metal guitarist) stars in the lead role as the imaginatively named…..Billy.
Warlock, best known for his work on 1990s “riveting lifeguard drama” Baywatch, gives a decent performance as our bewildered and possibly insane protagonist who believes himself to be the victim of some kind of nefarious conspiracy. While one might find it difficult to empathise with a man who lives in a lavish mansion and is adored by every woman who glances his way, Warlock somehow succeeds in making the character somewhat sympathetic.
The acting from the rest of the cast is somewhat tough to critique in any normal fashion. Let me put it this way, the acting feels “off”, with everyone’s delivery all feeling just a bit too forced and well fake sounding. This is not to say that they are bad actors (although none of them are likely to get an Oscar anytime soon) but it almost feels the acting is “bad” on purpose.
An example of this is Billy’s family, who are such a close-knit “happy family” that it’s downright eerie, with the affectionate way they refer to each other ranging from “a bit creepy” to “Donald and Ivanka Trump” on my personal “creepy family love scale”.
For about 80-85% of its runtime, the film plays a bit like a teen-focused retread of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with Billy running around screaming like a paranoid madman that something sinister is at work and that he’s the only one who can see it and “you’re next” and such. This part of the film is decently done, with it being an effective way of developing the characters, as well as show off some of the more satirical elements of the plot.
Such as the ignorance of the upper classes to tragic realities such as death, as evidenced by Billy’s sister’s rather relaxed reaction to the death of her ex-boyfriend, with her being more focused about what Billy’s wearing to Ted Ferguson’s party. Because of course who isn’t more concerned about Ted Ferguson’s party than life itself? He has a pool and everything.
Although this part of the film is also the weakest with it being incredibly clichéd and frankly a little bit boring. All it made me want to do was watch a real Body Snatchers film instead of what is essentially a lackluster retread.
Then, I got to the final 25 minutes and I bore witness to “The Shunting”.
It’s a climax that when you mention it to people who’ve seen it they’ll either giggle like they should belong in a padded cell or shudder like they’ve accidentally seen Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall’s wedding night video.
The final 25 minutes of Society is quite possibly one of the grotesquely mental endings to a film that I’ve seen in quite some time, with it being a spectacularly gooey, squishy (dear god so much goo and squishiness) and nightmarishly literal depiction of class conflict.
It’s a climax where the viewer at the mercy of the nightmarish creations of special effects wizard “Screaming Mad” George, whose stellar work brings to life a whole host of mind fucks that serve to utterly ruin many of life’s simple pleasures.
Pleasures like food, sex, family, joy, life itself and the phrase “let’s get to the bottom of this”.
I’m not kidding, when you hear the elderly Judge utter the phrase “let’s get to the bottom of this” maybe think about closing your eyes for a bit. Just a little hint that could help avoid a week’s worth of nightmares. The ending also decides to ruin the word “butthead” with possibly the most disgusting and lamest “Dad joke” in film history.
I really can’t describe the sights of “the Shunting” in enough words to do it justice, it is just something that has to be seen to be believed, and then you’ll be begging to make the images go away.
Society is overall a rather mediocre, run of the mill paranoia horror film that you’d likely forget about the minute you switch it off. However, after witnessing the grotesquely hilarious climax you’ll be begging to forget half the s**t you just saw.
If you watch this film and feel bored by the first hour and a bit and want to switch it off, don’t. Stick with it and bear witness to a truly spectacular and disgusting display of special effects wizardry and a clever, if slightly (and literally) ham-fisted slice of 80s social satire.
Check it out, if only for the last 25 minutes.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★