Film Review: Society (1989)


SYNOPSIS:

Bill is worried that he is ‘different’ to his sister and parents. They mix with other ‘upper class’ people while Bill is more down to earth. Even his girlfriend seems a bit odd. All is revealed when Bill returns home to find a party in full swing. Not for the weak of stomach

REVIEW:

If you read my review of “30 Minutes or Less” where I mentioned the “trip to Peru” I can tell you this is going to one of those reviews… If you don’t want to waste your time reading my “30 Minutes or Less” let me break it down for you like this: I’m going to start way off topic, violate a whole bunch of “English Lit 101” rules by not using proper essay format… This is going to be a super personal piece of writing, where I’m going to tell you stuff about myself, my outlook on film criticism and yes I will also cover what is probably the best directing effort from Brain Yuzna and I’m including his “Return of the Living Dead III” and “Bride of Re-animator” and “Beyond Re-animator.” All good films mind you.

I believe that film (and all art really) is a sum total experience that is done such with a marred pallet. Our lives and everything that occurs before we see a film obviously effects how we perceive the film. So when watching a film you need to take into account what you were expecting from the advertising, your politics and your feelings on art, etc. While this all may sound very pretentious (and I’m sorry if I sound that way) ultimately it generates an outcome of “kick ass” or not.

Taking that into account I believe that film criticism should be personal. I need to tell you who I am in relation to the film and you as the reader should be judging me as much as I’m judging the film. For instance there are film critics that give a crap about the “general public” and they don’t think of their personal feelings about the film they just review the film on the basis of whether or not they think YOU will like it. I am not this film critic; my stripes are of a totally different beast. I write from the heart and some films have real meaning to me. I can write some cerebral crap about how a film is or is not audience accessible, but I’d rather spill my guts to you, we are talking about horror films her so let’s have some blood and guts… Which the last 30 minutes of “Society” is all guts…

And here are some of my guts…

Society” is about a young man from a rich family who starts to wonder if he is adopted, he comes to find out that his parents are some type of “other” species and they raised him from a child merely as a sacrifice for what he thought was his sister’s officially initiated into the fold… These creatures are super rich and feed off of the lower class. At the heart of this film is conspiracy and paranoia which is one of the reasons I love this film.

When I saw “Society” for the first time it was on VHS, I was 14, maybe 15, and it made perfect sense to me. As much as “They Live” rings true to something inside me so does “Society” and more so at that time. Both films are very much on a similar wave length. They both hit me on a gut level, more so because I grew up on the wrong side of the tax bracket… I did not grow up poor by any means but the high school I went to was called “an East Coast Beverly Hills 90210” my class mates drove Mercedes Benzes to school while I walked. I lived in a care takers cottage on a sub-divided estate, they lived in multi-million dollar homes, the way they treated me was like I was lesser than them and that treatment for many years made me hate rich people –rich people just like the main characters in “Society.” I didn’t understand why they were mean to me just because I didn’t have what they have; I just was weird and didn’t have the same amount of money they did and that did not to me justify their cruelty… how inhuman…

The main character in the film, play by Billy Warlock, is a young man who doesn’t feel like he belongs in his family; I had an “evil stepfather” and due to the rocky relationship between him, my mother and myself I felt like I didn’t belong in my own home. I listened to them fighting through the walls shutting myself into my room and worked on wearing out my VHS copy of “The Exorcist” as it lulled me to sleep… I was an outsider in my own home, as was “Billy the Bastard” the main character in “Society.”

Watching a film like “Society” you could see it as the symbolic representation of the power structure in America and how the ultra-rich and corporations like Wal-Mart, Halliburton, Disney, McDonalds, etc. set out to destroy and enslave us, devour us if you will with their styrofoam automaton way of life… The possibility of massive conspiracies vs. the reality of the way business works leaves the first unlikely the latter the unexciting sad truth… They aren’t out to get you; it’s just hoarding… only its money and old wine not in art deco estates not rotting furniture in a dank house…

And now that I’ve ripped my still beating heart out for you and whined about my life more than a 15 year old suicidal emo girl does let me say this: at the end of the day I learned there is nothing wrong with rich people (I was paid a lot to say that) and when I started school I was small kid easy to pick on… By the end of school I learned if people make fun of you and beat the sh*t out of one rich snotty jackass so badly that his friends look at his face and say “I hurt looking at that” chances are you won’t be bothered again.

I don’t like writing to much about the plot of a film, why create expectations and spoilers? I want to tell you whether in my opinion the film is worth watching or not, and why you should see a film. As well as just kind of share my love of film. “Society” is worth seeing, but as I said in the beginning of the review you should be judging me as much as I’m judging the film… Also in the beginning there was that bit I dropped on you about how I’m going to take the very long way to get there, English 101 and all that…

So, this guy not certain but he thinks that he adopted by his wealthy family and he comes to learn that they are some type of weird creatures that rule everything –like the freemasons –just more incestuous. He also comes to find out that he is merely being raised by his family as a sacrifice for his sister’s ritual initiation of these ruling elite. Along the way one of these elite creatures played by the slightly nuts and really hot Devin DeVasques who falls in love with him. I’m surprised Devin DeVasquez didn’t have more a career after this film, she got her start in “Playboy” and that’s a great place for any actress who is serious to start. She also has great lines like “How do you like your tea? Cream, sugar… or do you want me to pee in it? ” The last time I heard that I was on a flight from LA to Tampa and I asked the stewardess for a cup of Earl Grey.

The film crescendos with a mass special effects orgy… I don’t know any other way to really say it than that… I mean it’s an orgy with lots of special effects. The creatures in the film have very bizarre bodies that are human looking but are more rubbery slime stuff when they reveal themselves… they have arms, legs, naughty bits, etc… but when no one is looking their bodies can be rubbery and pliable and can contort in various directions. So the film’s climax is during a ritual orgy called the “shunt” where their bodies begin emitting clear slime and then they attach themselves to the human sacrifice by grafting themselves into the person…  This film is a like surrealist layer cake of weird special effects, body parts reconfiguring into strange shape shifting figures merging of two to one… Salvador Dali was a huge influence on Screaming Mad George who did the special effects on the film and it shows. The surreal and strange lends it to humor and gore, especially with what is the most iconic image from the film –the Dad’s face between his own ass. And while this film is in no way an art-house film it is a great example of artistic special effects.

I’m attached to this film, it’s engrained into me it has meaning to me as an autobiographical side note to my life because where you were and what you doing when you saw a film for the first time counts for a lot. I could be over hyping it to you because of its value to me. If you are a coinsure of the strange and the weird this “Society” qualifies. If you like dark films form 80’s with a twisted sense of humor and some nice gore this is for you.

Society (1989)

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About Josh Darling

Writer, cartoonist, social anarchist and born again atheist, horror, cult and B-movie enthusiast Josh Darling divides his time between trying to raise or steal the money and equipment to make his own low budget opuses, writing reviews for HorrorNews.Net and raising 4 children to survive the Zombie Apocalypse. He is currently working on a pro-atheist comic book series called "The Adventures of Pete and Steve" done in the style of religious "tracks."


As a child he was forbidden to watch horror films and due to said film being a taboo he became obsessed with them. Later during a deep depression while working at a video store back in 1995 Josh started watching 3 - 7 movies a day and by best guess has probably seen close to 20,000 films. He owns thousands of rare and hard to find horror, art and silent films. Please do not ask him for a copy of "La Fin Absolute De Mond" because he will not share it.

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