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This is one of the weirdest movies I have ever seen, somewhat akin to
watching a Lovecraft tale as told by John Waters. I think I liked it.
Yeah, I'm pretty sure I did...I guess.
Billy (Bill Warlock of soap opera fame) is nearly 18, and has spent his youth living a life of privilege with his wealthy family in Beverly Hills. However, he senses that something is wrong. He does not look like his mother, father or sister, and indeed, they treat him as though he were an outsider. Oh, they're always very pleasant and polite, but they're somewhat distant and rather cold, displaying no real emotions towards him or anyone else. Tragic news is met with blank expressions and vacant smiles. Billy's girlfriend is too busy obsessing about parties to care about Billy's mounting concerns, and his psychiatrist dismisses his worries with prescriptions. When Billy hears an audio tape recorded by his sisters' most recent dumpee, his worst fears are confirmed: something unnatural is happening, something incestuous and profane. But the dumpee disappears, the tape recording alters itself, and Billy finds himself being slowly and deliberately cornered by The Society.
For all that this film is a dark comment on the soullessness of the upper classes, it never really takes itself seriously. Indeed, if it had, this movie would have died a quick death and taken up residence in the discount PVT bin at Blockbuster Video, cursed as it is with all the hideousness of the 1980s, denim and synth music and helmets of bleached hair everywhere. But this movie is so odd and freaky with the most morbid sense of humor running all the way through it that it works, and works pretty good. The special effects look a bit dated, but they're so hilarious that you won't care. (insert "butthead" scene here.) The "shunting" scene is still difficult to watch for people like me who have a low tolerance for sadism and gore, but I've seen gorier and the concept was so innovative that I had to appreciate it.
If you ever wanted to see one of those sappy teen movies from the 80s, (preferably the ones that starred Michael J. Fox or Molly Ringwald) tortured, dismembered and publicly humiliated, then this might just be the film for you.
Beverly Hills teen Bill Whitney (Baywatch's Billy Warlock) is good at
sports and popular at his high school, but he feels alienated from his
upper crust family. His parents are indifferent towards him while
lavishing favor upon his sister. Sometimes he even feels like they're
conspiring against him, but is he just paranoid?
This was Brian Yuzna's first film as director, and it's still his best. My love for this thing knows no boundaries. It's such a wonderfully unique mixture of social commentary, the 90210 lifestyle and incredibly warped horror. Oh, is the horror in Society ever warped! It's always fun showing this to first-timers and seeing their reactions to what unfolds on the screen. Horror aside, the film also works as both a joke on the rich and a scathing indictment regarding their tendency to leech off of the have-nots.
Even though it's pretty clear right from the start that things aren't what they seem, there's a great sense of paranoia present in Society. Is Bill's rich family plotting against him? Are they even human? You wouldn't expect a former Baywatch star to be an alienated sort, but in the context of the film, it works. The pitch black humor works too, though there are a few more juvenile attempts at comedy (the kids on the beach) that are admittedly lame. In a way, however, they do add to the film's bizarre tone. I used to see the weirdo mother character as another pointless attempt at low-brow humor, but the more I've thought about it, she's likely there to represent a mishap through the shunt. Former Playboy centerfold, Devin Devasquez, plays her quirky daughter, Clarissa Carlyn. She's very appealing in the role, and it's refreshing to see a rich beauty portrayed as something other than an evil vixen for a change.
The climactic scenes involving the big shunt are really something to behold. Words cannot do justice to the madness of this sequence. Spectacular, glorious madness! Nope, even those words don't do it justice. The very idea is quite perverse, and the special effects by Screaming Mad George are jaw-dropping. I'd be hard-pressed to come up with another horror film that comes close to rivaling Society's climax.
I also can't go without mentioning the sinister reworking of the "Eton Boating Song" which plays over the film's opening credits. It's pure gold, and since the Anchor Bay DVD's menu has it playing on a loop, I like to leave it on the menu for a bit after I've finished the film.
Society has a never-ending charm that's impossible for me to tire of. I'd probably rank it somewhere among my top ten personal favorite horror films if I were to make such a list. I remember trekking all over the metroplex just to find a copy back on the DVD's release date (the same day Near Dark hit DVD from what I remember). Good times!
Billy Whitney is a troubled kid who's seeing a shrink because of his
fear of loved ones and those that are close, which he has a hard time
fitting in with his wealthy family as he feels he doesn't belong with
them. He's also a student at Beverly Hills Academy who's running for
president and is dating the head cheerleader, so things aren't all bad.
Although things suddenly change for the worse when Billy's Sister's
ex-boyfriend convinces him there's something strange about his family.
Now Billy gets pulled into a very frightening world that's filled with
surreal images and where the paranoia is finally tearing him apart. But
what's to come for Billy will be more shocking than what he can
After watching a horror-mystery the day before I decided to put my teeth into another, Yuzna's 'Society'. You'll think that Society comes across as usual pure 80's trash in the very cheesy kind. And it does look like that and actually descends into that pattern. But firstly the way it started off you might think otherwise, as it does open proceedings rather eerily with an tight prologue and then a haunting tune through the opening credits, but soon it takes a real sharp turn from its beginning and heads into familiar 80's horror territory, with the usual corny dialogue, gratuitous nudity, camp performances and over-the-top humour. Although when it comes to the final 20 minutes or so, you totally are blown off your feet and possibly are in a state of bemusement. During this stage it turns disturbing and rather disgusting, while there's classical music streaming along. I know that I was left with a bewildered impression on my face and I would be surprised if you don't get the same feeling too. Meaning it's a good idea to make sure your not eating when coming up towards the film's perverted climax.
The odd but fun story does play out like a teen flick with nice amount of mystery and yep I say it, satire. This story has more to it and that shows in the hidden agendas and subtle dialog that all seems to come together perfectly. On a second viewing you would easily pick up on these hints within the script. You got your sick in-jokes, lame pun and plain wicked tone. Back onto the satire now, which this story is an allegory on the rich looking down on the less privilege and finally screwing over the poor. These amusing pot-attacks are scattered across the story, while also worked into the mystery side of the story with Billy trying to figure what's going on and what's this 'society' is. Some moments you see have you contemplating if what he sees is a figment of his imagination. The reason why you question this is because his seeing a shrink so is it just in his head or is this nightmare for real. This is presented in a very good manner and that's because of the man behind the camera.
Brian Yuzna who produced the great 'Re-animator (1985)' makes his directorial debut here and does an extraordinary job. No real atmosphere is generated, but he paces it with such elasticity that there's no labouring about and he ups the suspense with assured handling and control. The humour and horror balance is a bit uneven, at times it felt oddly out of place, but it doesn't destroy the fun mood. Camera placement is rather sharp and well executed, with a nice eye for shots and moods. Going with it all is a likable heroine played by Billy Warlock from 'Bay watch' fame. While, the rest of the acting is nothing out of the norm for a film like this. Everyone was effective in their parts and contributed to the enjoyment that followed. The production is incredibly slick and that's evident by the locations and Screaming Mad George's mind-blowing special effects. Those messed up effects that come out of the blue are what makes this film memorable in its inevitable outcome!
There's nothing really creepy about this real jokey 80's horror flick, but when it gets to the ending credits you'll be left with one real lasting impression I assure you!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Cinema in the 1980s was all about the meat. "Long live the new flesh,"
proclaimed James Woods in Videodrome, and when the flesh wasn't being
splayed, flayed or contorted into new and nightmarish forms, Long Pig
was firmly on the menu during that greedy, decadent decade.
The directorial debut of Brian Yuzna, collaborator of Stuart (Re-Animator) Gordon, cult favourite Society joins a polite entrée of cannibal-flavoured fare, such as Paul Bartel's Eating Raoul (1982) and Peter Richardson's Eat The Rich (1987); although the film's nearest dining companion is surely Bob Balaban's Parents, employing the same sense of creeping familial paranoia, and is also from 1989 - as is Peter Greenaway's The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. Begging the question: just what was in the water that year?
In an era of Reaganomics and Thatcherism, it wasn't too much of a stretch to imagine some shadowy cabal of Republicans or braying Hoorays chowing down on the poor huddled masses ("Mmm, Job Seeker with gravy, anyone?") and Society, where John Hughes meets Davids Cronenberg and Lynch for lunch at The Four Seasons, posits exactly that scenario. Here, the rich really are another species, a race of Mr Stretchys, inbred to hell, and parasitically feeding on the lower orders: "The rich have always sucked off low-class s*** like you!"
As it opens, 17-year-old Bill Whitney (Warlock) seems to have the perfect set-up: home is a Californian mansion, his girlfriend's a cheerleader and, being a C-grade jock type, he's a shoo-in for class president. Drawbacks: notwithstanding a curly mullet Lou Reed would blanch at, he's feeling increasingly alienated from his family, a preppy bunch of West Coast WASPS, and is convinced he's adopted. Mom and dad barely acknowledge him, and his sister bulges in all the wrong places. As he gloomily tells his therapist Dr Cleveland (Slack), "We're just one big happy family - except for a little incest and psychosis." The usual teenage angst? Or is he on to something?
First he glimpses his showering sister through the misty booth twisted completely back to front at the torso, all ass over tits. Then her ex, Blanchard (Bartell) plays him a covertly recorded tape, appearing to indicate that his folks are holding incestuous orgies. "First we dine, then we copulate..." When Blanchard dies in a road accident, Bill becomes convinced of a cover-up, though he is distracted by a mysterious new girlfriend Clarissa (DeVasquez), intent on updating the 'Karma Sutra' with her improbably acrobatic positions in the sack. Until he discovers exactly what Dr Cleveland meant when he told him, "You're going to make a wonderful contribution to society".
While initially and mischievously coming on like some soapy teen melodrama, peopled with 'Baywatch' babes and beach-bullies, Yuzna's impish allegory gradually reveals the maggots with each crunch of the apple (metaphorically, and in actuality); peeling back the epidermis to expose the wormy heart of Beverly Hills.
It seems clear that Yuzna studied Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man at some length. Each subversive moment is calculated to completely wrong-foot a 1980s multiplex crowd, suckled on saggy, silicon horrors. "Cream and sugar... or do you want me to pee in it?" Clarissa casually enquires while pouring Bill's coffee. No wonder it was the critics' darling in Europe (with its tradition of killing rich people) but shelved for three years in the States: the Brat Pack may have been cocaine-addled brothel-botherers, but at least they never fastened a napkin in place while drizzling you with truffle oil.
The 20-minute climax, in which a disbelieving Bill is presented to the nouveau riche as the latest addition to their flesh fondue (the 'Shunting'), remains one of the most startling, shocking, and frankly exhilarating endings in the genre, let alone one of the kinkiest uses of latex in any medium. 2005's Slither may have upped the latex stakes, but SFX genius Screaming Mad George's sobriquet is entirely justified, as a crowd of thoroughbreds, stripped to their underwear, and "bent out of shape by society's pliers" to quote Bob Dylan, rearrange their DNA - dad really is a butthead - and slither through one another's yawning cavities like wet, red slugs.
Had the Marquis De Sade taken too much Camembert before bedtime, he'd be hard-pressed to imagine anything quite so brilliantly disgusting. It may be a one-gag picture, but it executes that gag with wit, flair and delirious abandon. Marx and Engels would surely applaud. Unfortunately, so would David Icke.
More off-the-wall incest junk, this one from Brian Yuzna. Everyone in
his wealthy social circle in Beverly Hills treats Bill (Billy Warlock)
like crap. That's because he ain't been invited in "Society" yet.
Needless to say, this society that he's not a part of is f---ed up and
involves any amount of strange activities including incest, perversion,
secrets, and the infamous "feeding" scene.
Lovers of bizarre cinema will get a kick out of this one and the body horror special effects by Scremin' Mad George are money (but semi-crude)for the most part. I borrowed this one but thought enough to buy myself a copy. 7/10.
Here's a reasonably funny slime-fest from producer/director Brian Yuzna of Re-Animator fame. It makes one nostalgic for the 80's thriller cinema, when a low-budget exploiter like this was commonplace, instead of the middle-brow crapola that passes for a fright flick these days. The latex-and-slime special effects are effectively old school and quite memorable. Enjoy.
17 year-old Billy Whitney feels alienated in his upper-class Beverly Hills home.He hears a tape that seems to indicate that his entire family are having secret orgies.People appear dead one moment but are alive the next and then Billy's girlfriend's body appears to twist into abnormal positions.His parents insist Billy is imagining everything and try to commit him to an institution.Billy slowly discovers that his parents and the people around him belong to a different breed of people,a secret inbred Society who are capable of melding and shifting their bodies."Society" is one hell of a bizarre film.The conclusion scenes with gruesome and unsettling special effects by Screaming Mad George are truly startling and gooey.There is also some nudity and sex scenes.Check out this weird and surreal splatter flick.
The best film directed by Brian Yuzna (producer of Re-Animator) is this
strange horror/sci-fi satire on the yuppie way of life.
Beverly Hills teen begins to suspect that there's something very wrong with his snobbish family, is he imagining it or are they... inhuman?!
Society is one original and shocking black comedy. There's never a dull moment in the engulfing plot, which starts out as a paranoia mystery then only gets increasingly weird from there on out. It all builds to a warped finale that you won't forget! It's one of those surreal and gruesome terrors that makes you wonder if you should be laughing or screaming at what you're seeing. The makeup work of Screaming Mad George (great name) is very effectively disturbing. The direction of Yuzna is well-done and the addition of the Eton Boat Song as the films theme is a clever touch.
The cast is spot on in their performances, the best being young star Billy Warlock as our perplexed and horrified hero.
Society is one of those unique genre oddities that must be seen to be fully realized. It's one very wild trip that's well deserving of a cult status.
*** out of ****
Brian Yuzna established himself within the horror genre by producing
splatter flicks such as the masterpiece Re-Animator and the pretty damn
good From Beyond; but Society marks his first directorial project. It's
a good one too! This film is unlike the likes of Re-Animator in that it
doesn't work principally from lots of gore. There are some disgusting
scenes on display; but the main focus of the film is always on the
surreal element of the story. It definitely shares a Lovecraftian
influence with Re-Animator. Bill Whitney is pretty much the normal
teenage boy; but he's pretty sure his family aren't. He's paranoid that
something unusual is going down with the society around him, but his
psychiatrist is having none of it and puts it down simply to teenage
paranoia. This is something more than paranoia, however, and after
reviewing a tape his friend made, and having his friend die
mysteriously, Bill is now certain that his fears are real. But it's
hard to stand out from society; and society certainly isn't going to
take his accusations lying down.
Society starts out like one of those teen comedies from the eighties; but somehow manages to build into a very surreal little film. I can definitely see why many didn't like it, but it certainly clicked for me! There are a lot of things that don't make perfect sense, the acting is terrible and the script is less than perfect - but it doesn't matter, because the imagination and inventiveness is here, and that is always the most important thing in horror. While there are films like this one in existence, there aren't any that are really similar to it; and that gives this film more standing in my view, as originality should be rewarded. Another positive element about this film is the way that it handles itself. The first hour is mainly concerned with the mystery behind 'society', but unlike many mystery flicks; this one always stays interesting. When it finally builds to it's effects-laden, disgusting finale - the audience really gets paid off, and if nothing else; you'll be captivated by what is on display. This film is a spoof on real 'society', but it keeps it's points close to it's chest and doesn't hit the audience in the face with them, thus giving this an element of intelligence. I warmly recommend this film!
The teenager Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) feels misfit with his parents
and his sister Jenny Whitney (Patrice Jennings). When his sister's
boyfriend David Blanchard (Tim Bartell) bugs his family, he shows the
disturbing tapes to Bill showing incest and a weird society. When
Blanchard dies in a car accident, Bill decides to investigate his
family and find a scary truth.
"Society" is a disturbing movie of Brian Yuzna, where the fight of classes is presented in a very original way. The story could be much better, but it is an interesting political and economical view of Marx theories, with the upper dominant classes literally and explicitly "eating "the lower classes. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "A Sociedade dos Amigos do Diabo" ("The Society of the Friends of the Devil")
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