The year when Like a Prayer by Madonna shocked the world of pop music and Freddy Mercury ‘wanted it all’; when Soviet Union allowed many countries to vote for the first time in decades; when the Berlin Wall collapsed; when the 486 series of microprocessor was released by Intel opening the way for the next generation of much more powerful PC’s.
You got it: 1989’s been a great year of (progressive and positive) change. One thing that, soon enough, would have gotten worse, though, was horror cinema.
In the late 80s, creativity and weirdness in horror was giving way to one of the least interesting decades for American horror cinema: the 90s (with a few worthy exception, obviously).
A man, however, didn’t want to give up on extreme and weird contents in horror movies: Bryan Yuzna. In 1989, Yuzna directed two great motion picture: Bride of Re-Animator and Society. The latter is the one I want to talk about (and recommend) in this post, since to me Society is one of the weirdest and creepiest cinematic experiences of the 80s.
In this movie, we follow an ordinary teenager (Billy Warlock) who discovers his family is part of a gruesome cult that organises orgies in which rich people feed upon the poor.
Society combines Cronenberg-esque body horror with the political horror of John Carpenter’s They Live: needless to say, the result is a film I absolutely and utterly love, one of the most impressive directorial debuts in genre film.
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If you’re a fan of movies like The Fly, American Mary, Contracted (in the body horror subgenre) or the likes of They Live and Parents (political/family-based horror), you should definitely check Society out. Why?
Because the movie combines these two aspects perfectly, displaying fantastic practical effects and featuring a subtle but effective criticism towards capitalism and family dynamics.
Speaking of the effects, Society is a very gory film, especially during the last 20/25 minutes, an infamous grand finale that gave this flick a cult status. The build-up, very 80s-like, is slow but never boring, because the film makes you care for the characters and features and underlying sexual tone (a trademark in the early Yuzna’s filmography, including Return of the Living Dead III).
The gore, albeit not always as realistic as in movies like The Thing and The Fly, is mostly well-made and extremely entertaining. Sometimes gross, sometimes fun and sometimes disturbing, the special effects in Society make the movie stand out in the body horror subgenre.
It’s hard to pinpoint flaws in the movie, but if you look carefully you can find out a few inconsistencies, such as a character that shouldn’t be in a certain place unless he teleported himself, which is unlikely to say the least!
Yet, you really need to be fond of 80s cinema, otherwise you might find the movie too cheesy for your taste. Nonetheless, if you have never seen Society and want to experience something truly off-beat, don’t miss it out!
Society (1989) 8.5/10
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My review is also available on IMDb – Society (1989)