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"Y'know, you really deserve what's going to happen to you"

Sept 25th, 2011

Back when movie posters and video covers were more than photoshoped heads of the principal cast I sometimes found myself drawn to watch a film simply because it had utilised some fantastic imagery. Back when I was younger many a poster scarred the shite out of me (Lair of the white Worm's poster destroyed my sleeping patterns) but when I got older I found a morbid curiosity to face my fears head on.

Society was one of the less fearful covers on my list (check the movie reviews stash to get a glimpse) so it seemed like the best one to start with. I really knew nothing about this film (or any of the other films I hunted down) other than the cover but I was sure I was ready for it. This is a film that still manages to haunt me today as I defiantly wasn't prepared.

I recently watched this back again so that I could write this review with a fresh perspective and I've got to say it's quite laughable that I found this scary but at the same time it still remains a disturbing and at times sickening.

The story is deceptively simple 80's fare (made in 1989 but not released until 92) but uses this to sideswipe you in its gruesome final act. Bill lives with his wealthy parents and his sister Jenny in a fantastic mansion. The only thing is Bill isn't anything like them and feels like an outsider in his own home. As his teenage lifestyle spirals out of control Bill feels there's some sinister afoot. With bizarre hallucinations we are left unsure whether Bill is correct or just feeling the paranoia of not being able to fit in with society.

After an atmospheric opening and ominous title sequence (complete with creepy song) the movie really feels like another cheesy 80's horror. Following Bills teenage escapades you can't help but feel that the opening failed to convey an accurate representation of its content. Fortunately though the entire film acts as misdirection so that its final 30minutes sucker punch you with its visual viscera.

Before we get to the gritty moments that once tore my soul apart it's probably a good idea to try and convey the tone of this film. As a child this was a film of pure terror but in actuality its closer to high camp. I'm sure you're wondering how I could confuse the two but all that really needs to be said is Brian Yuzna.

Yuzna wrote and directed the movie (his first) and if you're not aware of his work he manages to seamlessly blend comedy and horror. Rather than presenting horror light due to the comedy elements he manages to create a visual cavalcade of grotesques that in my opinion have never been topped. Most people may be aware of his long-time collaborator Stuart Gordon, director of the classic Re-Animator of which Yuzna directed the follow up Bride of Re- Animator.

The campiness really comes from the acting which at times can be damm right insufferable. I could go through and list all the bad moments of dialogue as an example but the easiest representation is by telling you who the actor who played Bill was. Billy Warlock may not be a name you're all that familiar with but all you need to know is that he was an actor on Baywatch. Now that might put you off but as I said before this was all misdirection.

Normally for the most obscure movies I choose to review I would post a trailer or pictures that would convey its style adequately to those who have yet to see it. Unfortunately most of the promotional material really do the film a disservice and reveal far too much about the final act. I myself was blown away by what I experienced and feel a lot of the impact the film had come from not knowing. I will say that this film is not for everyone and deals with a bizarre corner of Horror that is very rare due to its extreme nature.

Society is part of a sub-genre known as Body Horror which deals with the graphic destruction of the human body. While knowing that really doesn't reveal what the secrets of the film entails it can give you an idea whether this is for you or not. Other examples of the genre include Shivers, Basket Case and more recently The Human Centipede (I actually think society is worse than Centipede which is more restrained than people think).

I think over the years we as film goers have become pompous in how cinema should look and what makes good film making. While I think many a film need be derided as it was poorly crafted just to make a quick buck lack of budget is not a reason to shun a movie. While Society is cheaply made with no real innovations in camera techniques and the like it really embraces the idea that film is a visual medium. Society is a visual spectacle the likes of which I never expect to see again.

While I'm trying not to reveal the ending of the film I don't want to overhype it as on a re-watch it doesn't quite have the same impact that I recalled. Firstly the effects do come off as quite dated, I myself am not the biggest advocate of C.G.I in cinema and relish practical effects this film uses an overabundance of stretchy rubber. I quite like the look but I know newer viewers to the film may be a little underwhelmed by the effects but no less digested.

The other flaw is the amount of comedy they actually put into the final act. I can understand its place as the movie up to the reveals had a comedic undercurrent and when things get too extremes they do have ridiculousness to them but I can't help but wish the film had gone darker. As a kid a darker tone may have actually caused irreparable damage to my psyche but it would have been a lot more satisfying for an adult to watch. Then again films back then never seemed to go to the places that they do nowadays.

This isn't a film for everyone and pushes the boundaries' to a place that I didn't even know existed. It may be a bit of a slug getting to the climax (although I personally enjoyed the mystery and hints it gave) but the payoff is well worth it (if you have the stomach for it). While the moral of the film is a bit heavy handed (exploitation between the classes) and obvious considering the film's title it's more than adequate for the greatness it sets up. The film has a very dated look but it's not something that put me off. Not as scary as I remember it remain visually striking and a treat for those who enjoy extreme cinema.

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