cast: Billy Warlock, Patrice Jennings, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards, and Ben Meverson
director: Brian Yuzna
95 minutes (18) 1989
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Tartan Terror DVD Region ‘0’ retail
reviewed by Emma French
Brian Yuzna’s directorial debut is heavy-handed and often ham-fisted, but undeniably entertaining. Made in 1989, it has aged better than many other big budget 1980s’ horror movies on the strength of its superior gross-out power and boldly transgressive sexuality. Yuzna has created quite a niche for himself in the schlock horror market, and he can also claim directorial credit for Night Of The Living Dead 3 and producer credit for cult classic Re-Animator.
The social stereotyping of the film is quite absurd, creating the sense of a kind of slasher Beverly Hills 90210. Billy Warlock as the confused and suspicious protagonist Bill, gradually discovering all is not right with his upscale family and neighbours, is an amusingly bad actor. Patrice Jennings, whilst not much better in the acting stakes, is suitably sexy as Bill’s sister Jenny.
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Billy Warlock’s most celebrated thespian outing was as eye-candy lifeguard Eddie Kramer in BayWatch, and his performance places him firmly on a par with those other BayWatch alumni Pamela Anderson and his ex-girlfriend Erika Eleniak.
But this film is about the special effects, not the stars, and Society deserves full marks for inventive gore. It is more a source of horrified fascination than genuine fright, but the images are memorably cinematic. The final flesh-fest produces some lovely visual moments that seem to be straight out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting, a strange and creepy melee of limbs and bodies.
The DVD has director commentary from Yuzna and the original theatrical trailer. This film does not have the cult horror status of Halloween or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but much like An American Werewolf In London and Fright Night, it is an amusing product of its time, to be enjoyed by all but the squeamish and prudish. The prurient pleasure of watching bodies turned inside out and heads emerge from backsides leaves a lingering sense of soiled exultation. This film provides the perfect inspiration for every teenager’s dream of a drug-fuelled orgy.