As a lifelong horror fan, I don’t think the genre gets the credit it deserves: when it comes to making statements about the world we live in, it’s rare you’ll see a horror movie praised for its themes outside of the community of us weirdos who love them so much. The reality is: horror has always looked at society through a magnifying glass and created true-to-life social commentary as a result. Of course, many of the classics have garnered acclaim and legacies by the general consensus over time, but most of the time horror is dismissed as nonsense. The reason I’m bringing this up is because movies like Brian Yuzna’s Society don’t get the credit they deserve as more than camp, disgusting body horror. Granted, when it’s all said and done you’ll sit there for 20 minutes afterwards wondering what the hell you just watched; some of you might even laugh out loud at its obvious intended humour; others might even feel sick to their stomach. However, what Society does do is provide an excellent satire on the unfairness of social class structures and how the rich exploit the poor. Whether our political or sociological views agree with this ideology is irrelevant; but there is no denying it gets its own point of view across effectively. Intellectual Mumbo Jumbo crap aside, Society is a hilarious, twisted and downright bizarre 80’s gem.
Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) lives in a Beverley Hills mansion with his rich family consisting of his 2 parents and sister Jenny (Patrice Jennings). He has a hot girlfriend, he’s a star player on the school basketball team and he’s in the running for class president. However, he’s never been able to shake the feeling that he doesn’t quite fit in. In fact, he’s convinced that he’s adopted. His sister is on the verge of adulthood, therefore she’s about to join the neighborhood society of the elite upper class; this sets off a series of bizarre events and Billy finds a disturbing recording of his sister and parents having an odd conversation to say the least. Soon things start getting weirder – and Bill is about to make his contribution to the society.
Society is part coming of age drama, part suburban nightmare: as teenagers we all felt out of place occasionally, and here it plays on this idea to paranoid effect. It also employs incestuous undertones between Billy and his sister, and overtones between his sister and parents, making for one of the most dysfunctional families in the history of cinema. As Billy’s paranoia increases, so does danger. He finds out the truth about the secret society his family, peers and neighbours are a part of – and it results in a climax I can promise you’ll never forget.
The core theme of Society, however, is the gulf in power between classes and how the rich exploit the poor. Billy represents the working class and the sole reason he was adopted by rich parents was for the gain of their secret club. That’s all I’m going to say about that because I don’t want to spoil the treats; just know that their plans are demented and unlike anything a movie has ever shown – or will show again for that matter.
Society doesn’t offer much in the way of gore and splatter; but fans of the gruesome stuff need not fret because there’s enough disgusting melting and grotesque body transmogrification to put you off eggs for a fortnight. The special effects were courtesy of Nick Benson, who worked on classics such as Tremors (1990) and The Blob (1988). Brian Yuzna movies are always good for beautifully disgusting imagery, but Society is his pinnacle.
If you want to see a movie that’s odd, sick, hilarious and fucked up, while being entirely unique at the same time, then Society is for you. I think all horror fans should see it at least once, but those who fall in love with it will keep going back to it just for that final 20 minutes of… something else. An underrated classic from the 80’s and one of my all time personal favourites. It makes for an excellent triple feature with Parents (1989) and Pin (1988) for a night of weird family festivities. 10/10
Rick Fry & Woody Keith
Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards, Patrice Jennings