Ode to VHS: Society

Society is an idiosyncratic horror movie from 1989.  It wasn’t released however, until 1992. Directed by Brian Yuzna, it’s like no other horror film I’d seen before or since. There’s a prodigious sensibility of paranoia throughout the film, at times channeled in just an conspicuous glare or abrupt animosity from a second-string character. It takes its treatise of the rich feeding off of the poor, and I mean LITERALLY. It’s disturbing to say the least, but in the most exclusive and best way possible. If you’re not opposed to a little bit of slime and disfigured flesh, then you will love this entry.  It is a genius statement by writers and director on the social class of upper America and it is all said with its tongue firmly in cheek. The film didn’t go down well in the USA, doing better in Europe and the UK. Director Yuzna said in an interview: “I think Europeans are more willing to accept the ideas that are in a movie. That’s why for example Society did really well in Europe and in the US did nothing, where it was a big joke. And I think it’s because they responded to the ideas in there. I was totally having fun with them, but they are there nonetheless.”In the face of the myriad of films out there in the universe, there are some films that just do not exist on DVD. They’re too obscure. They’re out of print, or maybe they weren’t credited commercially “at top of ladder” enough to warrant a release once the VHS format was phased out. However, thanks to the internet, these unforgettable to some but forgettable (if that makes since) films still float around as bootlegged copies or out-of-print DVDs. That’s why I am here. I provide the fans with a list and information to rear you towards these deserving gems and give them the attention they need.

LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH! No they don’t quote that in this film but it reminded me so much of Videodrome and that quote. The special effects were created by ‘screaming mad George’ and have to be seen to be believed. The effects blew my mind and still blow my mind to this day. In 1990, Society won the Silver Raven award for “Best Make-Up” at the ‘Brussels International Festival Of Fantasy Film’, and was well deserved. The reason Society is still talked about is its ending. It makes such ostentatious and avant-garde use of gore effects, I couldn’t help but question if the entire film solely exists as a set piece to deliver the final scene.

Now for the plot, Bill feels out of sorts and isolated in his upper class suburban family. He seems to have it all; a mansion, a cheerleader for a girlfriend, and popularity but something just feels wrong. His sisters ex boyfriend gives him a tape that plays his family and other upper class individuals having a massive orgy and taking part in murder.  The noises are very strange and utterly disgusting. Seriously, ewwwwwwwwww!  As the film unravels, you start to doubt what’s actually happening and question if it could be all in Bill’s mind. He sees his sister’s body twist in a bizarre shape while taking a shower.  These occurrences happen more and more, until we finally learn the truth in a completely heinous and flabbergasting end sequence. They never explain what these monsters are. But apparently they have been around for a very long time. I am the kind of person that likes to know the back story on the monsters and villains but sometimes it’s best not to know. The music also adds onto the ‘creepy as fuck’ effect along with all the creepy laughter going on. Yikes. If you have heard about incest being in the film and are confused with what’s going on while watching I will clear this up for you. All these people have sex with each other in very…well I cannot even put it into words it’s so odd. The main character’s mother and sister are having sex, although it’s not any kind of sex you may have seen before! The kid’s mum is lying in bed writhing around and her bottom half is covered by a sheet. She then spots him and runs towards him, but where her legs should be there are a pair of arms. This creeped me out. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Billy falls over and she stands over him and his sisters head pops out of mum’s vagina. You then realize that his sister is inside the mother and only her arms and head are visible. She says something like “If you have any twisted fantasies Billy now is the time to act them out” He then sees his dad who has his face in the middle of his arse!

I like that Devin DeVasquez and Evan Richards make appearances in the film. Devin played the slut Iris in Can’t Buy Me Love, she was a slut in this film as wel, and she was Playboy Playmate of the Month in June 1985. I remember Evan Richards as Mag in Rock N Roll High School Forever. He looks a lot like Corey Haim. Billy Warlock makes a decent performance as Bill. You may remember him from Halloween 2… or not.

Some interesting facts thanks to IMDB: The scene where Billy sees Jenny’s body distort in the shower was added during the production because Yuzna felt the film needed another shocking scene earlier in the film. Writer Woody Keith came from a Beverly Hills family much like that of Bill Whitney and many of the characters depicted in the film are based upon real people Keith knew in Beverly Hills. The scenes where Billy has therapy sessions with Dr. Cleveland weren’t in the original script. They were added during production to help strengthen the narrative of the movie. While filming the ‘shunting’ scenes Brian Yuzna purposely avoided using any blood fearing backlash from the MPAA. A dozen crew members were used to work the large, contorted puppet for the ‘shunting’ finale. The puppet was moved from beneath the stage floor where the crew members were concealed. The film was also shot in five weeks.  How in the fuck did they film all that in five weeks is what I want to know!

“The rich have always sucked off low-class shit like you!”

“We’re just one big happy family – except for a little incest and psychosis.”

“First we dine, then we copulate..”

“Cream and sugar… or do you want me to pee in it?”

“You’ve been living with these people all your life, and you didn’t know anything about this?” My thoughts exactly. How could you not?

Then we have my favorite quote which is “Fuck you butthead.” Billy says this to his dad and it made me giggle, butthead? Really? No but he really is a BUTTHEAD! Haha you will see why at the end.

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