Teenager Bill Whitney doesn't belong in Beverly Hills. He feels different from his parents, who lavish all their attention on his sister, and tells his psychiatrist that he thinks he's adopted.

Sounds like regulation issue teen angst? Something that's about to develop into a John Hughes flick, or a gay teen coming out story? A nice enough, but ultimately unchallenging, little film? Read on...

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Bill is right. The rest of his family are different. They were born into society, he wasn't. They "fit in", he doesn't.

Only society isn't just WASPs, or UHBs with attitude. It's a cabal of body-contorting, flesh-melting, polymorphously perverse Nietzschean ubermensch, whose orgies would give De Sade a run for his money...

The fantastic has always provided an arena for satirists and social critics. Few take genres like horror and science fiction seriously, compared to their more realistic counterparts, with the result that so much more slips under the noses of the powers-that-be.

The problem is that for every Dawn Of The Dead that conveys its message in an entertaining way, there's a Jonathan: Vampire Sterben Nachts that goes too far for heavy-handed, didactic quasi-Marxism polemic.

Mercifully, Society is of the former sort and, along with Bob Balaban's Parents, John Carpenter's They Live and Paul Bartel's Eating Raoul, stands as one the high water marks of Eighties satirical horror.

Initially, one may struggle to see past the big hair, shoulder pads and other fashion crimes. Soon, however, such grotesqueries come to appear yet another - albeit presumably unconscious - facet of the assault on Reaganite America.

Woody Keith and Rick Fry's script and dialogue is sharper than the performances, most of which are of the somewhat broad variety. Brian Yuzna's direction often feels somewhat flat and televisual, though the odd effectively suspenseful sequence, like the one that opens the film, may lead one to believe this is intentional.

The real stars of the show, however, are Mad Screaming George's prosthetic effects, showcased in an incredible orgy sequence that really has to be seen to be believed.

At first, the ending - don't worry, I'm not going to reveal it - feels unsatisfactory, and certainly isn't helped by continuity lapses. On reflection, however, it comes to seem the only appropriate (ir)resolution.

Recommended to fans of body horror, Bunuel, Pasolini and John Waters.

Reviewed on: 09 Nov 2002
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A young man suspects that the reason his upper class neighbours avoid him is because he's adopted, but the truth is still more disturbing. Gore galore.
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Darren Amner **

Director: Brian Yuzna

Writer: Woody Keith, Rick Fry

Starring: Billy Warlock, Devin Devasquez, Evan Richards, Ben Meverson, Patrice Jennings, Charles Lucia, Connie Danese

Year: 1989

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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