Society Blu-ray Review
Written by Joel Harley
Blu-ray released by Arrow Video
Directed by Brian Yuzna
Written by Rick Fry and Woody Keith
1989, Region B, 99 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Blu-ray released on June 8, 2015
Billy Warlock as Bill Whitney
Devin DeVasquez as Clarissa Carlyn
Evan Richards as Milo
Ben Meyerson as Ferguson
Charles Lucia as Jim Whitney
Concetta D'Agnese as Nan
Ever struggled to fit in among your own family and friends? Thought you might be adopted? Looked at the people within your own social circle and felt as though you don't really 'belong'? That life's a joke that you don't really understand (while, at the same time suspecting that you yourself might be the punchline)? Enter Brian Yuzna's Society, the manifesto for your worried, paranoid and disillusioned mind. If you're the sort of person who's ever joked about David Cameron secretly being a Space Lizard, then Society might just be your Holy Bible.
Poor young Bill Whitney struggles with such worries, feeling 'different' to his parents and sister, not fitting in with his peers at school and barely managing to maintain a relationship with his own girlfriend. Through it all, Bill manages to keep on an even keel (thanks to the family therapist), until his sister's weird ex-boyfriend lifts the blinkers from his eyes. A hidden recording of his family at one of their rich people parties reveals a dark, seedy secret that Bill has long suspected but always tried to ignore. What follows is much harder to forget... both for Bill and us, the audience.
One of horror cinema's most underrated talents, Yuzna brings us what might be his masterpiece in Society. Not bad, for a debut movie. Had it been directed by David Lynch or Cronenberg, one suspects that Society could have been up there with Blue Velvet or Videodrome – it's honestly that good, if a little rough around the edges - but Yuzna remains a relative unknown, best remembered for the likes of Re-Animator 2 and The Dentist 1 & 2 (all favourites of mine, I should add), never quite breaking the almost-mainstream like Lynch or Cronenberg. Like frequent collaborator Stuart Gordon, he's responsible for some of the more original and interesting horror films of the eighties and nineties and, also like Gordon, should be a lot better known and appreciated. Admittedly, he hasn't helped his own case in recent years, with dross like Rottweiler and Amphibious Creature of the Deep (his Faust, on the other hand...), but had initial reviews been kinder to Society, one suspects the director's career could have taken on a very different curve, in time.
So Yuzna may have peaked with Society. But what a peak! Funny, scary, surreal, subversive and stomach-churningly grotesque, it remains timely viewing even (especially) today. As the divide between the rich and the poor grows ever greater, so films like Society retain their importance. It helps that effects maestro Screaming Mad George's practical prosthesis hold their own in a way that even the best CGI will one day struggle with. Sweaty and tangible, the final reel is one of horror's all-time greatest spectacles. The 'butthead' line makes me laugh every time, too.
Video and Audio:
The film looks a treat, newly remastered in a 2K digital transfer approved by Brian Yuzna himself. Both Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD versions are included, while the lovely-sounding audio comes in both Original Stereo 2.0, or uncompressed Blu-ray PCM. The song might get on your nerves, but it's wonderfully apt: a high-pitched weird version of a song best associated with the very same Eton Prime Minister Dave Cameron himself attended. Just saying.
Yuzna features heavily in the comprehensive special features, which include an audio commentary with the director, a lengthy interview and Q&A session recorded in 2014. In The Champion of the Shunt, visual effects artist Screaming Mad George talks FX, while more of his work can be found in the included music video Persecution. Finally, Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez and others pop up for a chat in The Masters of the Shunt. Fancy new artwork and a neat little book by critic Alan Jones come included as standard, while those who opt for the limited edition get the tie-in comic book sequel Party Animal to pore over.