"If there is one reason to see Society it’s for the special effects make-up, which is outstanding, if a little warped."

The first time I came across Society was in the late-Nineties, when it was mentioned in a film supplement magazine entitled Uncensored, which documented the most horrible, vile moments in movie history. This naturally got my attention – not necessarily in a good way, but it had my attention.

Part of Tartan’s Grindhouse releases, Society - which has 'cult-horror' stamped all over it - is a startling, disturbing, and strangely sexual story about Billy Whitney, whose seemingly perfect life is more of a nightmare than a dream. Cosetted by the elite of Beverly Hills, Billy leads a lavish lifestyle but, surrounded by beautiful homes and superficial people, he feels suspicious and paranoid about the behaviour of those around him.

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He is increasingly concerned about the kinds of activities his friends and family are getting up to; evidence of strange sexual exploits only convinces him more and he comes to believes his whole social circle are plotting something against him. Billy's fears are only increased when, one night, he crashes the most shocking, perverse, surreal social gathering from hell – a chips and dips party this is not!

Society was a popular movie upon its release in Europe; in the US it disappeared into thin air. It’s clear Europeans seem more comfortable with the themes that run throughout the film and deal with them a lot more easily than our American counterparts. Director Yuzna pushes the boundaries of gore and bad taste in equal measure and it’s a weird film to say the least.

It is a slight social commentary on society as a whole – and the relationship between upper and lower classes, albeit told through sexual horror extremes that include a nod to incest, cannibalism, orgies and grotesque disfigurement.

Hands disappear up orifices, skin blends together, and people are turned inside out – have I left anything out? Probably. It’s a swift kick in the head for sure, but many questions are never really answered – was Billy smoking something or was this really all unfolding in front of his very eyes?

Billy ‘Mad Mullet’ Warlock is okay as the lead (I wonder if Hasselhoff hired him for Baywatch based on viewing Society? He fornicates with beautiful women, staggers around confused, catches a tan and gels his mullet perfectly – an ideal audition tape for Baywatch.)

This dated Eighties synthesised movie with fabulous gore gags and drugged up horror visuals cannot surpass a script that contains stagnant storytelling. But if there is one reason to see Society it’s for the special effects make-up, which is outstanding, if a little warped. The creations are jaw-dropping, especially during the party scene.

Reviewed on: 04 Dec 2007
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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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Keith Hennessey Brown ***1/2

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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