1989 - 99m.
Society is one of those movies that’s managed to gather a healthy cult following in the fifteen-plus years since its release and I still can’t quite figure out why. It’s easy to commend it for its mixture of outrageous perversion, brazen practical effects work, and obvious satire of the upper class but it’s also just as easy to point out how clunky and weakly acted it feels. I can’t deny it’s worth seeing as a curio horror flick and now, thanks to the fine folks at Arrow Video, fans can splurge and get the companies’ mind-boggling collector’s edition blu-ray. It’s just not something I would personally feel the need to add to my library.
Brian Yuzna, producer of such horror favourites as Re-Animator and From Beyond, makes his directorial debut here spinning a bizarre body horror tale that opens with a nightmare sequence introducing us to Bill (Billy Warlock), a popular teenager from an affluent family who seems to have it all despite never feeling like he belongs in the high society circles his friends and family are part of. He’s been attending therapy, is a favourite to become class president, and has a cheerleader girlfriend but that’s all about to come crashing down when he becomes involved in a twisted plot involving a cassette tape containing what sounds like his family partaking in bad behaviour causing him to start questioning those around him.
This all leads to heaps of bizarre moments with a sexual deviant bent that just feels more sloppy than anything as the script by Woody Keith and Rick Fry goes as off-the-rails as it can piling on weird comedy moments (at one point Bill is asked, “How do you like your tea? Cream? Sugar? Or do you want me to pee in it?”), an unintentionally funny moment where Bill vigorously bites into an apple, one of the most “what the fuck?!” shower scenes ever filmed, lots of talk of conspiracy and a top secret ‘society’, Warlock’s character stumbling upon more and more clues as we look on mildly bored, and a last twenty minutes (and infamous finale that has to be seen to be believed) that reveals a whole lot of craziness and almost, but not quite, makes the lead-up to it worth sitting through.
Warlock, who had reoccurring roles on the soaps “General Hospital” and “Days of Our Lives” as well as a lengthy run on “Baywatch”, just can’t carry this. He makes Bill feel like a blank slate with barely any personality and I just couldn’t like the guy no matter how hard I tried. Co-star Devin DeVasquez, trying to seduce Bill, is a treat for the eyes but seeing as she’s a former Playboy Playmate she delivers the adult film level acting you’d expect. This wouldn’t stop her from appearing a handful of erotic thrillers and Andy Sidaris’ Guns after this before marrying Soap actor Ronn Moss (“The Bold and the Beautiful”, Hard Ticket to Hawaii) and co-producing TV series “The Bay”. Also worth noting is Heidi Kozak as Bill’s girlfriend - horror fans will recognize her from Slumber Party Massacre II and the seventh Friday the 13th entry.
Society has enough over-the-top insanity to give it a once over but be prepared for its many short-comings. I unabashedly love the work of Screaming Mad George as he contributed great creature effects in such films as A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master and the two Re-Animator sequels (both also directed by Yuzna) but this has got to be his masterwork – it’s gooey, it’s gross, and I’ve never seen anything like it before - it says something that it’s the only thing I really care about here. As for Yuzna, it’s obvious this was his first time behind-the-camera as the movie stumbles more often than not but he would get better and deliver such (mostly) pleasing genre fare as The Dentist films and sequels in the Return of the Living Dead and Silent Night, Deadly Night franchises. (Chris Hartley, 1/23/17)
Directed By: Brian Yuzna.
Written By: Woody Keith, Rick Fry.
Starring: Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards, Ben Myerson.