I was in the mood for something Re-Animator-related after seeing Jeffrey Comb’s in last week’s film, Frightmare. Though I do have to say this week’s fare is much for appetising than tombs with deadly gas. Society has long been on my to-watch list. This Brian Yuzna-directed film was released in 1989 and was his first foray into directing films after producing successful movies like Re-Animator and 1987’s Dolls.
Billy Warlock is Bill (and here he’s trying his best Charlie Sheen impression). And Bill is pretty damn perfect. He’s running for class president, has a cheerleader girlfriend and plays basketball. But he often visits his psychiatrist, to whom he admits that he believes he might have been adopted by his unapproving parents. His sister Jenny is the star in their parents’ lives in the lead up to her coming out party.
One day at the beach, one of Jenny’s ex-boyfriends, Blanchard, stops Bill and asks him to listen to a tape. Blanchard’s bugged Jenny and Bill’s parents and plays a tape back to Bill. What he hears on the tape is a sort of orgy between Jenny and her parents. Freaking out, Bill runs to give it to his psychiatrist the tape. When he sees his psychiatrist in the morning, the tape plays back nothing but innocent conversation. In desperation, Bill runs to get another copy of the tape from Blanchard, only to see Blanchard’s body being taken away on a stretcher – dead.
Bill returns home to tell Jenny the news, but their parents have a letter to give him. When he opens it, he finds that he has been invited to a party at popular classmate Ferguson’s house. Jenny disregards the news of Blanchard’s passing with a shrug and only proceeds to press Bill about what he’s going to wear to the party.
At the party, Ferguson only confirms the orgy that Bill heard on Blanchard’s tape. The two boys get into a scuffle over it and Ferguson proceeds to push Bill into the pool. “Make waves, with me – you’re gonna drown!” Frustrated, Bill leaves the party to have sex with the teasing Clarissa (Devin DeVasquez). During, he hears the unusual slug-like-sound that he has heard in his own home before. When he falls off the bed, he sees Clarissa lounging with her leg twisted backwards. He saw his sister in an similar curious position earlier with her butt and boobs protruding from the same end.
Afterwards, Bill meet’s Clarissa’s mom. She likes hair. A lot. She likes to hold it and cough it up and put it into people’s hands as a form a strange greeting.
Bill’s family only gets weirder, thought admittedly not as weird as Clarissa’s hair-obsessed mum. They like to do things like hang out together on the bed wearing their best lingerie. Plus Bill has to deal with the death of Blanchard. When he and his friend attend the funeral, they both remark about how Blanchard’s corpse hardly looks like him. Admittedly, because it’s probably not really Blanchard as when he’s touched, he cracks like a porcelain doll. But while at the funeral, Bill is invited by his student body president rival to meet later in the night as the boy has information for him.
It’s hardly surprising when Bill stumble’s upon the boy’s corpse in the woods. But after Bill brings the police to the site, the body is missing and the police believe he’s just playing jokes (“Is really that boring being rich?”). Then when he goes to the debate the next day, his rival struts out onto the stage like nothing has happened.
When Bill goes home the next night, he’s confronted by his family and his psychiatrist. Bill’s injected with drugs and knocked out. Bill’s best friend Milo is around luckily and he follows the ambulance he saw Bill being carried into. When Milo arrives at the hospital, he learns that Bill has is in the morgue despite just being brought in. But Bill is still alive and walked out to return back to his house.
The house is dark when he arrives, but it’s only a trap. Inside is a lavish party full of people waiting for Bill’s arrival. Unfortunately (or fortunately to anyone who watches Society) the rest of the film from here on out is all excellent, but would be completely ruined if I dare write about it. And I don’t dare, even if there is a solid 30 minutes of climax. But holy shit is it good. It’s really, really good. Yunza does an excellent job of making your stomach tighten and twist during an ending that plays out like one giant funfair.
Also… IT’S SUPER FREAKING GROSS.
I do love Billy Warlock in this film. He has that boyish innocence (see: naiveté) that was so popular in 80s movies that I wish was around more. He brings out his Michael J Fox charm in a movie that could otherwise be gross in the wrong hands.
Society plays perfectly on the yuppie-phobia of the late 80’s. Like a classic thriller from the 50’s, the film builds a great sense of suspense in this world that is very easy to feel suspicious of. Despite the big hair, much of these themes of the rich (and the games they like to play with their power) is still very prevalent – it’s almost scary.