We are living in a material world, and greed is good. Somewhere amidst all the synth music, hairspray and day-glow neon of the 1980s, greed and excessive wealth were not just accepted, they were downright admirable. The rampant economic discrepancies and class identification issues boiled to a head on screen in films like Pretty in Pink, The Secret of my Success, and Less Than Zero. Some filmmakers gave commentary on the wealth by creating the standard 1980s rich asshole character (who was usually played by James Spader) or by showing that wealth would make you forget the good things in life as is the theme is movies like Brewsters Millions, Rain Man, and Baby Boom. But few films tackle the dystopian illusion to quite the extent of Brian Yuznas Society, and definitely not with as much latex and goo. It is tragic this film is so hard to find and has garnered such exceedingly limited releases in the States.
Bill Whitney seems to have a dream life. He lives in a swanky Beverly Hills mansion. His parents are loaded, he has a hot cheerleader girlfriend, and his life is occupied with playing sports and running for class president. Just when his existence seems ideal, Bill begins to feel like he does not belong, like his family and peers are starting to alienate him. Though his therapist says his paranoia is just teenage emotions gone psychotic, Bill embarks on a quest to find out what this upper-crusty, WASP society is really hiding, eventually uncovering that the rich are literally feeding on the poor.
With special effects provided by the legendary Screaming Mad George (Bride of Re-Animator, Predator), the people in this society dont just flash their wallet to demonstrate their place in society. They melt into giant puddles and have mass orgies of quivering goo and flesh. It is rumored that Yuzna avoided using blood on purpose to keep from having to battle the MPAA. But even without blood, the film is disturbingly gory, and Screaming Mad George must have spent endless hours meticulously slinging latex to create these intensely graphic and glutinous beings.
This films approach may sound perversely strange, and by all accounts it is, but Society is also a gloriously woven commentary. The strange orgy-loving mutants wrapped in a social message are also likely what kept Society from getting decent distribution deals in the US. Though originally shot in 1989, the film was not released stateside until 1992. By this time, horror had begun to transition away from the effects heavy creature features, and also the ’80s greed theme bubble had burst. Society was released upon its initial 1989 completion overseas and found quite a bit of success in Europe.
To this day, Society is considered a staple horror film in many other countries, but made barely a blip on the screen Stateside. There were rumors of a possible sequel, but considering the poor reception in the U.S., the remake never came to fruition. Society had a limited DVD release in the early 2000s thanks to Anchor Bay, but the supply was small, meaning it is difficult now to find an affordable copy. Currently on Amazon, a used copy will cost you about $60, and a new copy will set you back $130!
Society is a commonly bootleged convention find, but be careful which version you acquire! There are rumored to be two different bootleg versions of the film floating about – one without the graphic I guess I am a butthead scene (censored on some versions) and one with the scene still present in all its gooey ass-y glory.
Though Society may be a bit of a hunt, it is well worth the pursuit. The flick seems even more relevant today considering our ongoing political turmoil over spending and capitalism. Society just got a snazzy United Kingdom Blu-ray release courtesy of Second Sight Films. Once again, catching these hard-to-find titles in a non-bootleg quality is well worth the $100 you will drop on a mid-range region free Blu-ray player. Plus the artwork on the new UK release is pretty damn epic!
So bust out those Brooks Brothers PJs, enjoy some over-priced champagne with your popcorn, and join Society!