Anchor Bay // 1989 // 99 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // September 26th, 2002
It's all about fitting in.
Bill Whitney (Billy Warwick) is having a hard time being accepted by his Beverly Hills peer group. His parents are snotty rich folks who live in a mansion and lavish attention onto their attractive daughter Jenny (Patrice Jennings). His upper-class friends all seem to be hiding something. Even his therapist (Ben Slack) appears a bit leery when Billy tells him that something weird is going on within his home life. When Billy learns that his parents and sister may be involved in some kind of sick sexual cult, he becomes increasingly concerned that his wealthy "society" neighbors may not be like Billy. In fact, they may not be human at all! As Billy digs deeper and deeper into his family secret, he finds a truth so horrifying and disgusting that it could only be censored by the MPAA! It was, and now the uncut version of Society is back in an "unrated" version that will make you squeal with fright!
I had high hopes for Society when I glimpsed the tagline "from the producer of Re-Animator" above the title on the DVD case. Alas, the film doesn't even come close to living up to that "other" '80s splatter-thon Re-Animator. Whereas Re-Animator was like lightning in a bottle, Society is more like a dim light bulb that never achieves true terror or momentum. The first 3/4 of the film is made up of Billy running around in his '80s mullet telling everyone he comes in contact with that "something strange is afoot." No one seems to believe him, even after he spies his sister in the shower washing her behind...while facing forward. Then he hears on a cassette recorder that his family is involved in some sort of weird ritual. Then Billy panics and starts running around some more. And so on, and so on. Much of the dialogue sounds like filler and almost every character is interchangeable in one of two groups: rich, snotty jerks or middle-class yahoos. Billy Warwick (whose only claim to fame is a crappy daytime soap opera General Hospital) as the lead teenager looks like a young Rob Lowe with all the acting merits of the guy who played Steve Urkel on TV's Family Matters. Society was Brian Yuzna's first directing gig and while it's far too choppy to be a true cult classic, you could see the underlying talent that would later crop up in Yuzna's Bride Of Re-Animator and Return Of The Living Dead 3. If you wait around long enough through the muddling plot, you'll be treated to one of the strangest, grossest orgies ever caught on film. Filled with naked bodies, twisted flesh (literally), and morphing effects (one man's head coming out of his rear was lovely), Society is a movie you definitely don't want to watch with your grandmother...
or a date...
or your dog...
Society is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. As usual, Anchor Bay has done a fine job of producing a solid transfer of a film that normally wouldn't receive such special treatment. While there are a few imperfections in the image (including some grain and a small amount of softness in the colors), overall this is a presentable looking picture that should really please fans. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Ultra-Stereo in English and is, not surprisingly, just okay. Surround sounds are limited to the front and center speakers while the rear speakers are usually always silent. This is an apt track for the film, as it didn't really require a full-blown 5.1 remix. No alternate soundtracks or subtitles are included on this disc. While Society hasn't been given special edition status, Anchor Bay has included one meaty extra on this disc -- a commentary track by director Brian Yuzna. Though I wasn't thrilled with the film, I do think this commentary is worthwhile for fans. Yuzna is a pretty chatty guy who's got oodles of stories about the production, story and casting of the film. Also included on this disc is a theatrical trailer for the film.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Ultra Stereo (English)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Commentary by Director Brian Yuzna
* Theatrical Trailer