Society (1989) is a vaguely interesting oddball horror film of some note. It’s on the UK Horror channel tonight at 12:20am. They do not broadcast in HD. My review:
A paranoid 17-year-old high school kid (Billy Warlock) feels increasingly uncomfortable about his wealthy family.
I had very low expectations for this as I tried to watch it circa twenty years ago and gave up with boredom after about half an hour. It was a fair bit better than I expected. It was clunky and awkward with technically weak direction, iffy acting and a sluggish pace but I was expecting it to be much worse than it was. The script is underdeveloped and tells its small story in a plodding, obvious way with too many questionable moments of character behaviour, as well as several unexplained moments. It’s a script that feels like it could have done with another rewrite to add flesh on the bones. If you’re expecting a conventional horror movie it will disappoint as very little happens in the first hour, and there’s no shock scares or suspenseful sequences. It’s not a scary film. It’s too cheesy to be creepy. Despite how clunky and artless the whole thing is, if anything it’s more of a surrealist art movie than a horror (although it does fall comfortably into the horror genre).
The music is pretty bad, especially when it tries to be funny. Funny music in a horror film! Not a good idea.
Visually it’s very prosaic looking with unimaginative camerawork so it doesn’t benefit much from being seen in high definition. The notorious gross-out ending may have been shocking and disgusting when it was released in 1989 but now it looks tame. I was not even remotely disgusted by the melting flesh special effects. It had zero impact on me and I’d be surprised if anyone nowadays was made uncomfortable by these rubbery special effects. David Cronenberg or John Carpenter’s use of special effects were far more revolting than anything I saw in Society. The film could easily have been more perverse and shocking. It all felt rather restrained. It feels to me like it pulled many of its punches due to censorship concerns so the more perverse ideas never get explored. It’s a film that could only have benefitted from being more extreme.
The film was okay and it was more competent than I expected. It was mildly entertaining despite its plodding nature. A modern day remake, with a smart script that engages with the ideas and not just the gross-out elements, could improve upon it in all departments.