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    Horace Cordier
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  • Society



    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: June 9th, 2015.
    Director: Brian Yuzna
    Cast: Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards, Chanel Ryan
    Year: 1989
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    1989's SOCIETY has always been a bit of an odd duck in the horror canon. Coming at the tail end of the slasher boom, it doesn't fit that mold at all. It's really a social satire at heart, loaded up with some impressively grotesque practical fx. Lowbrow Cronenberg? THE STEPFORD WIVES by way of VIDEODROME? THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN as directed by Peter Jackson in his BRAIN DEAD days?

    Whatever it is, Brian Yuzna's freak out isn't easily forgotten. Slightly vapid and adopted Bill Whitney (as played by Baywatch hunk Billy Warlock) is a kid in Beverly Hills feeling alienated and out of sorts. This is pretty standard fare for teens anywhere, but in the upper crust crowds of the 90210 set, it's even more pronounced. For one thing, his sister disturbs him in some intangible way. He's also under the care of a psychiatrist however and starts telling the shrink some of the things he's seeing (hallucinations really) and more importantly HEARING. He's starting to think his parents aren't his own and that terrible things are happening in both his "family" and the neighborhood. Incest. Cannibalism. You name it. The females in the picture are all strange too - including the lovely lass that takes Billy's virginity. As hot as Clarissa (Devin DeVasquez) is, she's a bit anatomically suspect. Billy's luscious sister also may be up to something. Billy's only real ally is his friend David (Tim Bartell) - a conspiracy nut that's convinced there's something horrifically wrong going with the 1%.

    SOCIETY certainly doesn't lack for ambition. But there's also a hint of the "bitten off more than you can chew" syndrome. This was Yuzna's first directing job after producing films like Stuart Gordon's all time classic RE-ANIMATOR. Pacing is off. The first act tends to drag and seems a little unfocused. The shots being taken at the well-heeled are more than appropriate but the satire is sometimes too broad. The teen sex comedy aura is dim and tolerable though and once Yuzna gets his ducks all lined up in a row...

    Where SOCIETY secures its cult favorite status can be found in Yuzna's looney tunes third act party scene and conclusion which features a stunning display of world class FX courtesy of Japanese maestro Mad George. This is one of the craziest geek shows of the goopy and the gross this side of Mr. Brundlefly in David Cronenberg's remake of THE FLY. It doesn't matter that it often makes no sense - just look at it like a Dali painting and roll with the controlled chaos. The vibe is somewhere between hilarious and irredeemably disgusting and somehow the closest thing to a grand send off for the practical effects generation. It is both tactile and revolting. And amusing. SOCIETY will never have the likes of ROBOCOP's pinpoint satirical accuracy but it will always rank at the top of any practical FX list with kin like John Carpenter's THE THING.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Arrow have been on a winning streak with their transfers of late, and this one is no exception. The 1.78.1 AVC encoded 1080p image looks great. This was a recent carefully rendered 2K job and it looks it. Flesh tones and black levels are true and deep. Fine detail is excellent and the color palette well represented. There's some very minor print damage but that's the only infinitesimal minus on display. Audio? The LPCM 2.0 Stereo track - equipped with subtitles for those that need them - is free from any obvious defect. Range is good and dialog is clear.

    The first big extra on this stacked set is a full length audio commentary with Brian Yuzna. Moderated by David Gregory and Carl Daft, Yuzna recalls the shoot with a mixture of philosophical insight and professional criticism. Time flies on this one and it is well worth a listen. "Governor Of Society" runs a little over a quarter hour and is Yuzna's brief career overview. Pretty informative stuff. Next up is a more SOCIETY itself focused piece: "The Masters Of The Hunt" which brings together the principal cast members to discuss the film. Enthusiasm and good humor is high for this one. "Champion of the Shunt" is a 20 minute bit focusing on the film's special effects. The star on this baby is Mad George who takes center stage to talk about both his career in general and the insane technical demands of SOCIETY.

    But that's not all. Past the featurettes and audio commentary, Arrow have thrown in a lengthy Q & A session with Yuzna from an English horror convention in 2014. The director talks SOCIETY and answers audience questions in good humor. Next, a strange bit of business is included. This two minute bit has Yuzna introducing the film at a UK premiere in 1989. Finally we conclude with a bizarre Mad George music video and the film's theatrical trailer. All content is also mirrored on a DVD included in the set.

    Closing Thoughts:

    SOCIETY may possess elements and themes from other films, and it may not be the most polished horror outing out there, but it has spirit. A wild and wooly ride with jaw dropping practical FX and some shocking material it flies gloriously off the rails for its climax. Remembered fondly by those lucky enough to catch it back in the day (SOCIETY had a problematic release history) and sought after by those who only heard about it through word of mouth, adventurous horror fans should find this Arrow edition indispensable. The combination of excellent technical presentation and heaping supplementary material should make this an easy sale for the right crowd.

    Highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!




















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