Society– 1989, Brian Yuzna, USA
In the psychotronic community, Brian Yuzna is mostly known for three things; One; his long, fruitful working relationship with horror film icon Stuart Gordon. Two; he directed the two Reanimator sequels because Stuart apparently had better things to do, and three; he’s the dude behind The Dentist, parts one and two. Those are probably the best known highlight’s of Yuzna’s long, active career, but he’s done all kinds of other shit throughout the years, too, and of all the projects he’s ever laid his grubby little mitts on, Society, his first directorial effort, is far and away the finest accomplishment that he can rightfully claim to be his own. He really set that bar pretty high with this one, and never, ever came close to shining this bright ever again.
Seriously, this masterpiece came from the same dude who farted out Return of the Living Dead 3? Don’t get me wrong, I liked Riverman, but that movie… Damn…
Society is the story of a young man from a well-to-do family who becomes suspicious of the superficial class system into which he was born. Bill (Played by some bozo called Billy Warlock) feels alienated from his peers, and soon, he starts to see a darker, more perverse side of wealth, privilege, and social status, which casts his family, friends, and society as a whole, in a terrifying new light. As things become more and more bizarre, Billy quickly begins to suspect that there is more going on in his upper class community than appearances would suggest, and as he attempts to get to the bottom of it, the bodies begin to pile up.
Society touches on a lot of ideas regarding nepotism, class warfare, and even regular-ass teenage angst, but regardless of how specific, or universal, the message in this film feels to you, one thing is for damn sure; it’s spattered some seriously creepy sequences, and the pay off in the third act is tremendous. The special effects (All practical, mind you, this was ’89, after all) really steal the show, and give Society one set in stone reason why all horror fans should count this film as required viewing at least once in their lives. It’s much, much more over the top and silly than what you’d see in early Cronenberg films, but I’d still say that Society is a classic of the body-horror sub genre, so it does occasionally draw comparisons to David’s many forays into that territory. Even more importantly, it’s a pretty good time, and the “frustrated 80’s teen who can’t get the adults to listen to him” trope keeps the film feeling fun, and light, regardless of it’s somewhat subversive, anti-establishment message.
But it isn’t perfect. Society has a few bothersome flaws that hold it back from living that fly Criterion life. For one, the score is cheesy and obnoxious. Additionally, The lighting is bland for 98% of the runtime, and the cinematography is flat and lifeless throughout. If you’re familiar with Yunza’s catalog, then you already know that this is typical of his style, but in the case of Society, you could almost assume that it’s deliberate, like some sort of bizarre, self aware, Paul Verhoeven stlye attack the American social class system wrapped up in the trappings of a twisted, Hallmark Channel movie of the week. If you look at the film’s aesthetic in this way, it becomes an easier pill to swallow, but it still nags at the back of my mind as a legitimate drawback, because he clearly didn’t do this shit on purpose. I can pardon all of that, however, and if you’re anything like me, you can too, because Society is also a movie where THIS happens:
No caption needed!
Recommended Double Feature: Society and Brain Damage, OR Society and Flesh For Frankenstein!