Blu-ray review: Society

Starring: Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez

Director: Brian Yuzna

Dinner is served for fans of cult ’80s horror with this excellent Blu-ray release of Brian (Re-Animator) Yuzna’s taboo-defying directorial debut. Billy Warlock (of Baywatch fame) plays an insecure Beverly Hills teenage who feels alienated from his WASP family and Republican party animal classmates, only to have his worst nightmares exceeded when he discovers that his parents and sister apparently indulge in incestuous orgies. When he tries to do something about it, he’s hampered by a conspiracy that seems to embrace almost everyone he knows. Meanwhile, Mum and Dad still plan to ensure that he makes “a wonderful contribution to society”.

Yuzna dispenses – at least for a time – with the full-on B-movie horror of the Re-Animator films for a cool, hallucinatory David Lynch-meets-David Cronenberg-meets-Brett Easton Ellis vibe, oozing black humour and creepy menace, as our nervous wreck of a hero stumbles deeper and deeper into the dark side of the country club set. It’s all shot in a sunny, glossy style that does nothing to dispel your jitters and weird zinger lines come at you from all directions. Even the offer of a comforting hot beverage is delivered with a barb, as when sultry love interest Clarissa asks him, “how do you want your tea? Cream, sugar or do you want me to pee in it?”

The story arguably becomes somewhat becalmed in the middle act, but otherwise this society 1is an impressively controlled performance from Yuzna, and there’s one helluva pay-off in the form of the notorious shunting sequence, with gooey, Dali-inspired gross-out FX writhing across the screen to the strains of the Eton Boating Song. It’s extraordinary stuff; it might not quite turn your world inside out, but it’s willing to pull heads through butt-holes trying. 8/10

Yuzna fans have been well-served on Blu-ray, and this is another strong HD transfer that they can add to their collections. The exteriors have a hyper-real sharpness and brightness, and flesh-tones are peachy. The upwards-looking shot of Clarissa on the beach could hardly look more sizzingly vibrant, while scenes in the psychiatrist’s office feel very lifelike, with their moulded shadows and detailed skin textures. As for the shunting, it fairly drips through the flatscreen. 8/10

16-min interview with Yuzna, who talks about how he switched from producing to directing and took the script, which was originally about a Beverly Hills blood cult, into a more surreal, effects-driven direction. ~ 22-min making of in which we hear from various members of the cast, including Billy Warlock, who is funny about his nerves during the film’s love-scene and about the furore when he attended the UK premiere with his Baywatch co-star Erika Eleniak (“We couldn’t go anywhere! It was awesome!”). ~ 20-min chat with FX whiz Screaming Mad George and the other FX guys who worked on the film, who describe what it was like being puppeteers inside the vast shunting sculpture while being surrounded by semi-naked actors covered in gloop. ~ 38-min Q&A with Yuzna in front of a live audience – the footage is rough and if you’ve already watched the 16 min interview, some of the material will be familiar, but there are also interesting nuggets about the mythology behind the shunting and the strange personality of co-scriptwriter Woody Keith, who drew on his own neuroses for the film’s themes. ~ Audio com, again with Yuzna, who, luckily, isn’t short of a thing or two to say, including more about Woody Keith and some informative stuff about slug orgies. 9/10


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