Blu- Ray Review – Society (1989)


Society tells the story of privileged Beverly Hills teenager Billy Whitney played by Billy Warlock(Baywatch)who feels alienated from his seemingly idyllic family life.We follow Billy as he begins to see cracks appear in the American dream and through them we catch glimpses of something much more akin to an Illuminati nightmare.Is Billy dangerously paranoid or are his relatives really deranged shape shifting socialites with a penchant for consensual incest ?

Very much a product of it’s decade Society sought to satirise the “Greed is good” ethic of the 80’s whilst simultaneously invading the direct to video horror territory that was also synonymous with the time.However apart from the absence of mobile phones and the presence of hair coiffed within an inch of it’s life the film has aged incredibly well.It’s main themes of conspiracy theory paranoia,the rich as the parasites of the poor,and the right to indulge in hedonistic behavior at the expense of others are issues that resonate clearly in our current climate of austerity.

Director Brian Yuzna was well known for his involvement in the popular Re-Animator flicks before he made this acerbic commentary on excess and this is very much his baby.He makes a good fist of controlling Woody Keith’s willfully bonkers script and it’s a credit to him that he retains a level of thematic prominence in the face of the jaw-dropping visuals from the aptly named Screaming Mad George.

The surreal and disturbing visions of the Osaka born practical effects genius are incredible to behold.When the veil is fully lifted during the climax of Society it still has the power to shock and stun viewers and stakes a serious claim as one of the most deranged conclusions in modern horror cinema.

Society has it’s problems but even it’s flaws add to the entertainment quota.Warlock is consistently appalling in the lead yet sports the confidence and self belief of an actor who would soon be starring in the most watched show on the planet and dating celebrity dynamite Erika Eleniak.The plot meanders wildly yet throws up one of the most bizarre characters of all time in the form of Mrs. Carlyn the human hair-ball regurgitating mute.The script struggles to knot together the various narrative strands yet still manages to give life to many creative exchanges such as one character offering to pee in someones cup of tea.

The overall presentation of this title from Arrow Video is superb even by their own exemplary standards.Resplendent in a gorgeous 2k transfer approved by Yuzna himself this HD release showcases beautifully how the initially vivacious colour palette grows darker and broodier as the paranoia spirals out of control.The Extras are not just plentiful but refreshingly devoid of filler.All involved in the commentaries and features are candid,enthusiastic and informative making this the ultimate version of a seminal body horror classic.

Bradley Hadcroft

Genre:Body Horror,Satire | Distributor:Arrow Video | Blu-ray Release Date:8th June 2015(U.K.) | Rating :18 |Director :Brian Yuzna | Cast: Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards | Buy: Society [Blu-ray]

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