If there is one horror film that defines the loving campness of a B-movie with the political and satire/ edge of an Orwellian class system, Society is that little 80’s horror gem. Combining the once formidable horror partnership of Brian Yuzna and latex make-up maestro Screaming Mad George, Society still holds up to today’s standards in terms of out and out paranoia mixed with the dripping, gooey and wet body horror of a Cronenberg picture. Being a late 80’s film it is full of bad acting, hideous hairdos (on both the men and women) along with a synthtastic 80’s score.
Filmed in 1988 and released within England and Europe in 1989, it was unfortunately shelved by its distributors in America until a limited release in 1992. But it found a cult film following due to the advent and rising popularity of the video rental market. Based around a Beverly Hills resident called Bill Whitney (played by Baywatch’s midget lifeguard Billy Warlock), who begins to feel that he does not quite fit in with his family. Slowly he begins to find out about “Society” and that his family really are not who they say they are, but are in fact a subspecies which can bend and mutate their bodies into grotesque shapes and engage in fowl and gruesome orgies. The rich really do suck on the life force of the poor (or “shunting”) to become one with “Society”, so Bill decides to take a stand with wet and gooey consequences.
There is also deep down inside of my own subconscious, something which still secretly fears the video cover and poster for “Society” with its hand drawn art cover of two high class party goers. Their faces removed from their skull and only being partially attached via strands of gooey melted flesh, which entices and draws you curiously closer as an already dead cat (see what I did there).
While it is not just the cover which still sends shivers down my spine, even to this day but also the last thirty minutes which contain a cavalcade of wet, dripping and grotesque bodily metamorphoses. But because of this “Society” still remains one of my favourite camp cult classics (which only a few 80’s greats have become part of the elite) and because of this despite its dated and slightly cheap effects work (wow just how much KY Jelly was used in that last scene??) it still manages to retain all of its unpleasant vileness along with its utter un-pc behaviour. Even the bad puns are now erring on the right side of “tongue-in-cheek”, and because of this “Society” is going to be forever (at least in my eyes) seen as a film which , even after finally seeing it after word of mouth or hearsay. It is still a forbidden pleasure that dirty little filthy horror film secret you hope no-one finds you watching. What is also lasting about this trash classic is the still (this is bearing in mind more extreme films released since) overtly exploitation seediness present within the film and its incest flavoured themes and eroticism. It really is a hard film to describe to either a friend or horror fan, they only way to describe it is “don’t eat before, during or after watching it, if you wish to keep your lunch”.
If you have a strong stomach and can tolerate a film where a group of rich Beverly Hills aristocrats mesh and bind into a pile of wet pulsating flesh, during a vile and repulsive orgy. Then give “Society” a spin, you will not be disappointed. It will forever be a trashy camp horror classic in my eyes as with each new viewing it just keeps on giving with its extreme look at body horror, paranoia with a dark satirical edge and its suitably surreal effects.
Or maybe you just need to have a warped sense of humour like myself; the worst you can say is I am wrong and that I really am a butt head.