When visual effects finally caught up with the gory imaginings of horror fans and movie makers alike, technical advances in animatronics, and more practical SFX in liquid and foam latex meant that the human frame could be distorted to an entirely new dimension. Ridley Scott’s Alien paved the way for a gruesomely enchanting decade of body horror as a bedfellow to almost an entire decade dominated by serial killers and sequels, Sadly 1989’s “Society” is a very much under looked title by the often over-looked Brian Yuzna – the director of the Re-Animator sequels and the most eccentric entry of the return of the living dead franchise.
Society features Billy Warlock (of American sitcom fame) as Bill Whitney, a down to earth young man on the cusp of his 18th birthday, has spent his comfortable youth living a life of privilege with his wealthy family in Beverly Hills. With his upcoming adulthood he develops insecurities that he might have been adopted. He does not look like his Mother, Father or Sister, and each of them looks down at him despite him being both talented and successful.
Even if his family are largely a pleasant bunch they project uncomfortable uncanny valley vibes, exposing no real emotion or affection. Billy’s paranoia gets the best of him resulting in nightmarish visions which a psychiatrist dismisses with prescriptions and the generic logical fact that he’s still going through puberty. His fears are deepened further when Billy hears an audio tape recorded by his sisters’ ex-Boyfriend. Dreams which suggest there’s something unnatural a foot, something incestuous and profane.
Society could easily be perceived as a dumb 1980s teen mystery melodrama for horror fans and anyone with an open mind. At its roots Society is a film controversially which openly challenges the classicism of the rich by presenting them as slimy, parasites feeding off the poor. Members of Society have power and big opportunities and even more interestingly the police are portrayed as proud servants of rich white people. The mystery behind Billy’s paranoia and this savage paranoia concludes in the last fifteen minutes with truly startling with gruesome, unsettling special effects by SFX genius Screaming Mad George that can only be described as a red-hot, slimy orgy.
Brian Yuzna who produced 1985’s classic Re-Animator made his directorial debut here and does an extraordinary accomplished job mixing the dark horror with lingering touches of campiness that he picked up from his previous work with Stuart Gordon. Overall no real atmosphere is generated, but is flexibly paced ensuring a well-handled suspense. That campiness blends well with the black comedy and the wise decision to focus on the horrific, rubbery, gelatinous special effects all of which accumulate into a rich and perverse social satire. The last fifteen minutes are enough to warrant watching this movie with the unique effects wizardry making up for the rest. Society is one of the most beloved cult horrors from the 1980s and not a film you’ll be forgetting about anytime soon.
As for that all important restoration and selection of extras, it’s an ever-familiar case for those of you out there familiar with Arrow’s work. Fresh content with an interview special on the cast with The Masters of the Hunt, a featurette about SFX with Society’s mad genius Screaming Mad George called The Champion of the Shunt along with the usual HD trappings and Q&A sessions. Onto the aforementioned restoration, Arrow have breathed fresh life into the lungs of this nearly forgotten icon without sacrificing the grime that makes such a sordid satire tick.
DIRECTOR-APPROVED LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS:
• Newly remastered 2K digital transfer of the film, approved by director Brian Yuzna
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
• Original Stereo 2.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
• Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Brand new audio commentary by Yuzna
• Governor of Society – a brand new interview with Yuzna
• The Masters of the Hunt – a brand new featurette including interviews with stars Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Ben Meyerson and Tim Bartell
• The Champion of the Shunt – new featurette with FX artists Screaming Mad George, David Grasso and Nick Benson
• 2014 Q&A with Yuzna, recorded at Celluloid Screams Festival
• Brian Yuzna in conversation backstage at the Society world premiere
• ‘Persecution Mania’ – Screaming Mad George music video
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Nick Percival
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Alan Jones, illustrated with original archive stills and posters
SOCIETY IS AVAILABLE ON ARROW VIDEO BLU-RAY