Ah the 1980s, how wonderfully trashy you were. If I’m not mistaken some of the best and craziest editions to cult film where unleashed during your tenure. Everything from mad and bad creature features, through to beloved cult classics found their place on many a film fans shelf. We must also be thankful for the 80s and the VHS era, without so we might never have had a film as bizarre and surreal as Brian Yuzna’s Society. Even now Society is still a deliciously perverse comedy horror gem.
Combining the once formidable horror partnership of director Brian Yuzna and latex make-up maestro Screaming Mad George, Society still holds up today. Even now its mix of paranoia and dripping, gooey body horror reminiscent of a David Cronenberg picture, still feels fresh. Obviously it is dated bit it is still full to the brim with bad acting, hideous hairdos and with a synthesised 80’s score, having lost none of its deranged charm.
Filmed in 1988 and released within England and Europe in 1989, it was unfortunately shelved by its distributors in America until a limited release in 1992. But it found a cult film following due to the advent and rising popularity of the video rental market. Based around a Beverly Hills resident called Bill Whitney (played by Baywatch’s midget lifeguard Billy Warlock), who begins to feel that he does not quite fit in with his family. Slowly he begins to find out about “Society” and that his family really are not who they say they are, but are in fact a subspecies which can bend and mutate their bodies into grotesque shapes and engage in fowl and gruesome orgies. The rich really do suck on the life force of the poor (or “shunting”) to become one with “Society”, so Bill decides to take a stand against the power elite with grotesque consequences.
Ever since I was a young horror fan there was something (which even now) still gives an air of discomfort from the video cover and poster for Society. With its hand drawn art cover of two high-class partygoers, their faces removed from their skull and only being partially attached via strands of gooey melted flesh. With all these elements it remains a quintessential image of what a good VHS horror can provide.
While it is not just the cover which still sends shivers down my spine. Even to this day the last thirty minutes (which contains a cavalcade of wet, dripping and grotesque bodily metamorphoses) still leaves a decidedly queasy feeling at the pit of my stomach.
But it is because of all that Society contains within its short running time, that it still remains a favourite camp cult classic and retaining all of its unpleasant silliness. Even the bad puns err on the right side of tongue-in-cheek. It will forever hold a place as a forbidden pleasure, that dirty little filthy horror film secret that you hope no one finds you watching (with its eroticism and incest flavoured themes
If you have a strong stomach and can tolerate a film where a group of rich Beverly Hills aristocrats mesh and bind into a pile of wet pulsating flesh (during a vile and repulsive, yet ultimately funny orgy), then give Society a spin, you will not be disappointed. Forever deemed to be a trashy camp horror classic with its openly surreal effects and warped sense of humour, it is certainly worth a viewing. If not then I am undeniably wrong and can be labelled a butt-head.
Billy Warlock … Bill Whitney
Devin DeVasquez … Clarissa Carlyn
Evan Richards … Milo
Ben Meyerson … Ferguson
Charles Lucia … Jim Whitney
Directed By … Brian Yuzna
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