[31 Days of Horror Part VII: The New Blood] Day 5 – Society (1989)

Director: Brian Yuzna
Cast: Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards, Ben Meyerson, Concetta D’Agnese, Ben Slack
Screenplay: Rick Fry, Woody Keith
99 mins. Rated R.

Well…that was strange.

Today, we are going to talk about the horrors of Society. No, not the actual horrors of actual society, but…well, the film is a biting satire, so I guess we will discuss some of the actual horrors of actual society while discussing the horrors of the film Society. Are you all still with me? Okay, close enough…

Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock, Halloween II, Lovely But Deadly) is kind of the odd one of the family. His mother, father, and sister are all socialites looking to maintain a status in the upper class of Beverly Hills life. Billy, while being relatively popular, isn’t all that interested in status. He feels out of place in his family, in his relationship, in his home. Worse, he’s suffering from a bad case of paranoia. He can’t shake this feeling that there’s something horribly wrong with everyone around him. It isn’t until his sister’s ex-boyfriend approaches him with evidence that he begins to see the truth about his family, school, and world. Billy’s in for a rude awakening.

It’s hard to dance around the story of Society without flat-out ruining the reveal, which is the best part of the film, and it’s also the reason for it’s popularity as a cult classic. When Brian Yuzna (Bride of Re-Animator, Return of the Living Dead 3) released the film, he expected it to do better than it did. Society ended up having a pretty solid release in the UK, but here in the US, it was shelved for three years before being dismissed almost entirely in 1992. It has since developed a cult following as an underground classic. Still, with all that, the film has its problems.

Billy Warlock was rather uneven as Bill Whitney. I liked him initially, but he takes some directions with his performance as the film hits its third act before recovering as the film reaches its climax. There are times he handles himself well, and others where I wasn’t sure what he was trying to convey.

Thankfully, his supporting cast seems to aid in creating the tone that Yuzna is going for. Evan Richards (Altered States, Twilight Zone: The Movie) is perfectly silly as best friend Milo. Ben Meyerson (Funny People, Speed 2: Cruise Control) is the embodiment of every jock 80s asshole as Ferguson, the popular party-boy. Devin DeVasquez (House II: The Second Story, Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV) is steamy to the max as the sensual and clever Clarissa, who begins to take a fascination in Bill. They all add to an aura of satire as Yuzna drives his message home.

As far as Yuzna’s intention, I’m not big on when he goes for comedy when his strengths lie in horror. This is true of Society as well. There’s some truly gruesome imagery on display here, and Yuzna elected to focus on that imagery over a compelling story, all of it leading to an ending that is bonkers and a film that oftentimes feels like a dream or perhaps a nightmare. When the comedy comes fluidly from the horror, it works, but sometimes Yuzna elects for some comedic moments that feel forced.

Society is a film with a heavy theme, one that, at times, feels like it is trying to beat you over the head with it. Rarely do I ever see a film with a theme taken so literally as the one that appears in Society, where the focus is on the differences in class. I can’t deep dive too much because I want you to see it. For all its faults, Society is just so much fun. It’s weird, gross, shocking, and very enjoyable. It also swings for the fences, which is commendable. The creature effects are great, the imagery is dreamlike, and the gore is on high alert. Society is quite good.

-Kyle A. Goethe

  • For my review of Brian Yuzna’s Silent Night Deadly Night 4: Initiation, click here.
  • For my review of Brian Yuzna’s Bride of Re-Animator, click here.
  • For my review of Brian Yuzna’s The Dentist, click here.

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