Tuesday, October 30, 2012


I've never been a huge believer in the "So bad So Good" philosophy when it comes to certain films. However, I do think that there are plenty of films that while they are not very good I find extremely fascinating. Rocky Horror Picture Show and I'm assuming The Room (Sadly, I have not seen this yet) fall into this category, and one can only hope that one day Society will join the mainstream ranks of cult classicdom that these two have thrived on over the years. Society is no rational thinking person's definition of a good movie, but it is one that must be seen, and with a crowd in a theater if you can manage it (Fellow blogger, Chris, and I got to see this at a horror movie festival at our local revival theater, the Belcourt.)

Society was the directorial debut of Brian Yuzna, who previously had co-produced Re-Animator and From Beyond with director Stuart Gordon. Both of these films are based on H.P. Lovecraft stories, and while Society is not, it is very "Lovecraftian" in nature mixed with body horror that might even make David Cronenberg cringe. While the movie opened up in 1989 in Europe and did quite well, Yuzna was not able to secure U.S. distribution until 1992 (Yuzna had already directed and released 2 other films in this time period) where the movie was essentially released straight to video and quickly forgotten. I do know that I watched this film when it was released, but somehow forgot everything about it. It must have been a late night because I can promise you, this is not a movie you will soon forget.

I don't even know how to describe Society. It could be called a message movie I guess: The rich are soul sucking demons. However, that doesn't even scratch the surface of the events that transpire in the film. Billy Warlock plays Billy Whitney, a rich kid from Beverly Hills who seems to have it all(cheerleader for a girlfriend, shoo-in for class president, nice car, etc.), but can't scratch the feeling that something is terribly off with his parents and sister. His sister's ex-boyfriend, Blanchard (Tim Bartell), gives him a strange recording of his parents and sister in what sounds like a freaking sex-a-thon (or as they keep saying on the tape, "Copulation"). It only gets weirder from that point.

Society builds and builds and builds. Along the way you are treated to some wonderful dialogue that sounds like it was fed through a computer simulation to give us an approximation of what people might talk like in some weird parallel world. My personal favorite bits are "One of these days it will be my party!" and "Would you like cream, sugar, or me to just pee in it?" You will also be led down misleading paths with bizarre red herrings (blow-up dolls performing oral sex and Ken dolls with screws in their heads that squeak left in Jeeps) that you won't realize have nothing to do with the main mystery because you are a level headed individual. And the explanation for these particular incidents might be one of the best damn things about the movie.

But what the film builds to is a twenty minute set-piece of some insane and extremely gruesome effects (by Screaming Mad George) that you will not see coming. And while what happens is fairly gross, it only adds to the goofy atmosphere that the rest of the film revels in. I can also say that you will see things you have never seen before done with the human body and for that alone you have to thank the film for something I guess.

Society was a product of its time. It was made and shelved at a time when the only horror films we were getting in theaters were sad attempts to keep a stale franchise alive (Jason Goes to Manhattan, Halloween 5, etc.) or even sadder attempts to copycat a new franchise into existence (Shocker, Warlock). Society was not playing by any of those rules and paid the price of essential obscurity. And while it is by no means a lost gem, it is a movie that is so bizarre and so fantastically outrageous that it is well worth checking out for all lovers of cinema. I guarantee that you will not be bored. And like I said the bigger the group of like minded people you watch this with the better the experience will be. I cannot stress that enough.


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