Cult Cinema: Society

Michelle reviews the off center horror film, Society

"Everybody chill. I'm doing
my best Uncle Jesse routine."
There has always been a divide between the rich and the poor. While the U.S. doesn’t officially have a caste system, some would say that being rich in this country has less to do with hard work and more to do with birthright. Brian Yuzna’s directorial debut Society manages to take a satirical look at the difference between the “have” and the “have-nots” with a deliciously perverse undertone bubbling just beneath the surface.

Society plays out like a mystery of sorts as we follow rich kid Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) in his investigation of the seedy underbelly of his affluent family and neighbors. The atmosphere teeters on the edge of insanity with bizarre flashes of grotesque imagery tucked into the narrative. The acting isn’t great, with most of it being on par with a made-for-TV movie, but it’s serviceable enough and not bad enough to detract from the film. Warlock puts in an earnest performance, but Ben Slack steals the show as Dr. Cleveland, Bill’s therapist. He has such a snarky and hilarious persona and it’s especially amusing in the second half of the film.

"I know. I'm amazing, right?"
If we were to categorize Society it would be billed as a dark comedy/body horror film. The entire film is presented tongue-firmly-in-cheek and is filled with subversive themes and thinly veiled barbs thrown at upper class society. As for the “body horror” aspect, this film has absolutely outstanding practical gore work. The effects were done by none-other-than “Screaming Mad George”, who is known for his incredibly surreal make up work. He has done effects for films such as Big Trouble in Little China, Predator and the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies--most famously the infamous cockroach scene in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. His creations for Society are outstanding and utterly gross in the best kind of way.

This film definitely has that late ‘80s look to it, with a brightly lit direct-to-video style of cinematography. For most of the film it looks mediocre but functional, but the last thirty minutes is where it really shines. Seriously, the latter half of the film is worth the price of admission and has to be seen to be believed.  Horror and gore aficionados will be delighted to see the absolute mayhem that emerges. Most horror films have the most basic of plots—mostly to set characters up for eventual slaughter. Society tries a little bit harder than that, and actually has some social commentary mixed in with the gross-out scenes. It’s no masterpiece, but is an interesting and unique little piece of horror cinema that is worth viewing at least once.

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-Michelle Kisner