Society – 3 out of 5
I never heard of this horror film from the late 80s until my friend wrote about it on the geek collective site I contribute to: The Robot’s Pajamas. His write up (check it out here) sounded interesting and, as if the universe was trying to send me a message, I was listening to The X-Files Files podcast and the host Kumail Nanjiani starting talking about it because he and his wife have been watching a lot of body horror scary movies at the time. Well, it was then that I yelled out loud to the sky that I got the message and, after realizing that I yelled this inside a gas station, I left the place overloaded with embarrassment and sought out a copy of Society and gave it a go-around this last weekend. It was…interesting.
|This is only the tip of the WTF iceberg that is this film.|
On the surface, Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) seems like he has a great life. He’s a big shot at school, his family is rich and he has a cheerleader girlfriend but Bill is filled with paranoia and he thinks something is wrong with this so-called perfect life. He starts to see horrific images that he can’t tell if they are real or imaginary and his sister’s ex-boyfriend claims that his parents and sister are sleeping together. The more time that passes, the more things start to seem crazy and that Bill might not have a grip on reality but insanity comes to a boiling point and he soon learns that he isn’t nuts…but the truth is far stranger than he’s ready for.
|"Hey, let's go and sports, eh?"|
There’s no easy way to review this movie because it is a pretty shitty film. The acting is terrible, the editing is very chopping and the story is sloppy—this film just abandons development and tosses you headlong into Bill’s paranoia with no real build up and ultimately feels like the film is saying, "Hey, catch up on your own." However, this film is entertaining for all these reasons but it is very entertaining for one gigantic reason: This film is fucking insane.
|This still isn't showing how truly mind-fuckable this film is.|
The crazy visuals and body horror surprises this film throws at you take a long time to show up but man are they worth it. Granted, the film teases you early on with a big What the Fuck? moment when Bill sees his sister in the shower and she has what looks like her boobs on the same side as her butt or her butt on the same side as her boobs—it’s better if I just show you.
|For some reason, Bill's dad reminds me of|
Robbie Rotten. Must be the chin.
After this scene that really confuses the lower extremities of a man’s body, the film takes a long time to get to some more crazy visuals. It takes a bit and you have to sit through Billy Warlock’s bad attempts at creating humor through hamming it up and mugging at other characters and you have to deal with a story that is very, very poorly put together but when the film goes flying off the rails (in a good way) what you see is just fucking bananas and it is equally parts unsettling and absolutely hysterical. A special effects wizard who went by the name of Screaming Mad George (a man who would work on such projects as Predator and some Re-Animator films) made up some stuff that words can’t truly describe (the desire to not spoil a film that is over twenty years old is also there holding back the damn of descriptive).
|Andrew Daly what are you doing here?|
These final moments of the film are honestly the greatest reason to watch the film and act as a perfect reward for the numerous bad aspects of the film and story. Not only is the visuals and practical make-up effects an amazing treat to experience but this is where the film lets everything just hang out. There’s no hint of subtlety with its very obvious metaphors and its use of body horror only makes this obviousness even more painfully apparent. It’s a feast visually and a blast with its clumsy and spoon-fed metaphors.
|John Candy really had some range in his time.|
|Okay...this is a little closer to giving you an idea|
of how nuts this film is. But only a little bit.
Society is a ridiculously fun film because it is so out-there. For a film watched for quality purposes, it misses the mark (except with the make-up) by a mile. It’s not a well-acted or strongly put together film and, if I had watched it with my current appreciation of film back when it came out, I would have given it a far lower rating. This is a film that needed years to gestate so it can be appreciated. It's a cult classic in every sense of the word. It may have been a reflection of its time but the film's structure is so shoddy that this film was destined to be something that can only be enjoyed years later. It’s like a wine that is crafted of some truly fucked up shit and a child’s handling of metaphors and themes. Watching this now, you can appreciate it for where it’s strengths are at and then have a harmless chuckle at where they are not. It’s not a genuinely entertaining piece of body horror for me but that doesn’t make it any less fun to sit through.