Director – Brian Yuzna
Cast – Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards, Ben Meyerson, Charles Lucia, Connie Danese, Patrice Jennings, Heidi Kozak, Ben Slack, David Wiley
Release Year – 1992
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Society is a film I was very excited to see because it marks the directorial debut of Brian Yuzna, the longtime producer and writer of many Stuart Gordon films, including Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dolls, and Dagon. As I try to do often with the films I view for the first time, I went into this experience knowing absolutely nothing about the storyline nor what to expect as far as horror, gore, etc., and I am glad that I chose to go that route. Society’s story does take a pretty long time to get going and kept me out of the loop for the majority of the film, but the story is an interesting and unique one that I have never seen in the genre. The film’s greatness though comes from its climax, which is absolutely amazing, drawn out as long as possible, and makes for a truly horrific experience that I will surely never forget.
Teenager Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) has always stood out compared to his high-strung parents and sister Jenny (Patrice Jennings), who he has always harbored an odd attraction towards. When Jenny’s creepy ex boyfriend, David, bugs his family and shows him the haunting evidence he has gathered on their twisted night life. With proof of their partaking in incest and a weird society, Bill investigates his family and comes across a scary truth behind the high-class elite in his city.
Society is a film of first-timers, from director Brian Yuzna to writers Rick Fry and Woody Keith, who both went on to write another Brian Yuzna-directed film, Bride of Re-Animator. Their story is as simple as it gets, with the majority of the film centering around Bill’s investigation of his family’s odd behavior. The townsfolk have always known that Bill has never “fit in” with his family, coming off as a brash jock in a family of high-end academics who surround themselves with friends of such class. It does not take long before he is provided the evidence from the snooping David, and when David dies under mysterious circumstances and the evidence disappears Bill knows he is on to something big. As I mentioned earlier, the majority of the film centers on his investigation and because of that we are not given very much horror for most of the film. There are a few scenes of horror here and there that were added in post-production because Brian Yuzna realized the film’s lack of horror early on, but they were not really enough to keep me from noticing the lack of horror after all. The events going on instead of the horror were at least a little bit interesting, but I was not enjoying the film as much as I wanted to (as a horror film) until the flick’s climax kicked into VERY high gear.
Words cannot truly describe what happens during the last 20 minutes of Society, but I can say it is unlike anything I have ever seen in my life. A few young souls stumble upon something they were never supposed to take notice to, a act known as “shunting”. What is it? I’ll let you see for yourself as you enjoy the images embedded in this review, and trust me – you will know exactly which images I am talking about. This final sequence delivers true true horror in a very grisly package, and I applaud the writers for making up for the initial lack of horror with these supremely epic scenes.
Director Brian Yuzna is a big reason behind the film’s success and keeping me interested in what was going on when the horror took a backseat to the very long development of the story. He gets the expected performances from his actors – slightly over the top but respectable enough for a late 80s production (ultimately released in 1992), and if you know what to expect from these films then you know they are as fun as they are un-Oscar-worthy. When the horror finally does kick in during the final sequence Yuzna’s direction shines and never gives us a chance to break away from the INSANE events before us. He uses nothing but live-action effects and does so in a grotesque fashion that is sure to leave some of you grimacing and looking away from the screen but peeking back in sheer amazement. Brian Yuzna showed us that he had what it takes to deliver a solid horror film, and Society is one experience I will never forget.
Overall, Society is a film I recommend just for the last 20 minutes alone. The initial 70 minutes are not bad and do a decent job of keeping your attention, but the lack of horror may make the wait an unexciting one until the goods kick in. Yuzna’s direction is solid and he shows us that he definitely belongs in the genre that he has made a career of in this absolutely unforgettable experience.
…Additional Stills / Epicness…