For the horror genre, the 80s can most easily be dubbed the slasher era. Starting with the success of Halloween in the late 70s, the simple formula of villain stalks-and-slashes-teens was rehashed a thousand times to varying effect.
Towards the end of the decade the concept had lost some steam, with studios churning out sequels. Horror was in desperate need of a new trend, one which would not arrive until several years later in the form of Scream. Incorporating bizarre social concepts and warped sexual ideas, Brian Yuzna’s directorial debut Society goes its own way, for better or for worse.
Bill Witney (Billy Warlock) feels disconnected from his rich, Beverly Hills dwelling family. So much so that when Blanchard, another student at the school where Bill is currently running for student president, tells him that he has bugged his sister’s ear-ring and parents car with microphones, Bill actually takes a moment to listen to the tapes.
What follows is a bizarre journey involving incest, mysterious strangers and a grizzly car crash. With such an unusual introduction, it’s apparent early on that we’re in for a very odd cinematic experience. Aside from the strange events that are occurring, the film further titillates with hints at impending orgies and strange alien species. Sure, the acting is a little dodgy and it’s not helped by a very dated sounding score, but curiosity should be enough to keep you watching when things get too weird.
As the plot thickens Bill struggles to find an ally, everyone he knows seeming to be involved in some kind of strange sex conspiracy. Bill’s neglected best friend Milo stays loyal to him, perhaps because he is from poorer stock and so his family wouldn’t be amongst the rich upper classes that are conspiring against him. The further Bill and Milo investigate, the more danger they find themselves to be in.
The constant bizarre events, characters and dialogue all point to a climax that will involve some kind of violent orgy. Whilst this is what is delivered, it’s still probably nothing like what you’re expecting. Less group sex and blood, more skin melting, shape shifting and punch ups.
Whilst the final scenes do provide gruesome good fun, the journey to get there is perhaps too much of an ask. There are too many instances where the strange behaviour of the characters is either unexplained or completely out of character, such as when Clarissa, the mysterious brunette Bill keeps seeing, offers him tea with “milk or cream – or would you like me to pee in it?” Strange enough, but when you consider that she’s on his side it doesn’t even seem to serve a purpose.
Many of the special effects are great, a few have not aged so well. The film on the whole shows all the dating of its era, which is probably a novelty too far.
Whilst I’m sure Society will have its fans, I can’t count myself amongst them. It may be all about the climax, but the rest of the film never quite manages to fall the right side of either fun or engaging. What we’re left with is an oddity of a film that doesn’t quite work.
As far as extra content on the DVD, we get the trailer and a series of teaser spots for a film about a ghost carriage.