Society (1992)
Society (1992)

Genre: Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 39 min.

Release Date: June 11th, 1992 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Brian Yuzna Actors: Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards, Patrice Jennings, Heidi Kozak, Tim Bartell

 


 

A

s with filmmaker Brian Yuzna’s previous projects, “Society” starts right into the midst of the action, establishing nerve-wracking strangeness even before the opening title credits appear. And it’s quite bizarre, featuring jovial, operatic music with angelic lyrics (the “Eton Boat Song” composed by A.D.E.W. with new arrangement and lyrics by Mark Ryder and Phil Davies) that heavily contrasts the surrealistic, slimy orgy that obscurely plays in the background. Having worked on several “body horror” pictures leading up to this directorial debut, Yuzna handles himself admirably in a hilariously grotesque blend of black comedy and jumpy scares.

17 year-old Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) is haunted by nightmares and inexplicable fears of just about everything, including his psychiatrist. He’s popular at school, playing for the basketball team and debating for a class president spot, and even has a blonde cheerleader fiancée (Shauna, played by Heidi Kozak). But none of his seeming normalcy stops him from believing he’s adopted. Living at an enormous mansion in Beverly Hills similarly doesn’t prevent him from feeling like an outsider, treated with disregard by his socialite parents. He also regularly sees unexplainable things, spying a pulsing, mutilated spot on his sister’s back, or her body contorting unnaturally in the shower – which turn out to be awkwardly distorted visions of untruth.

A “coming out” party for Bill’s sister Jenny (Patrice Jennings) leads to ex-boyfriend David Blanchard (Tim Bartell) hiding in her closet, watching her dress. Bill comes to her rescue by throwing out the peeping tom, but it’s clear David and Bill are both correspondingly shunned from their elitist parents and friends. Jenny’s celebration is eerily geared toward unveiling her to Judge Carter (David Wiley) and the townsfolk in a secret ceremony that involves disturbing activities. Blanchard bugs the festivities and gives the recording to Bill, who listens to what sounds like an incestuous, licentious revelry between his sister, his parents, and classmate Ted Ferguson (Ben Meyerson). But when he reveals the findings to his doctor, the inflammatory material appears to be edited into a harmless conversation. Is his mind playing tricks on him again? Or is his family hiding an impossibly dark secret?

“Society” is equal parts mystery and horror, retaining a campiness that isn’t betrayed by the actors’ continually serious approach to the outrageous concepts. At times, the dialogue is so strange it’s downright silly – and yet no one stops to treat the ludicrousness any differently than the moments of gore. Bill is stuck in a world in which his family’s wealth inspires disdain and authority figures are quick to dismiss his claims of foul play. Each time he arrives closer to the truth, such as when nerdy debate rival Martin Petrie (Brian Bremer) volunteers information at a secluded woodland spot, clues and colleagues tend to disappear.

Travelling down the path of exploitation, the film also features Playboy Playmate Devin DeVasquez in the role of Clarissa Carlyn, who manages a couple of nude scenes before engaging in the disconcerting contortionist hallucinations that plague Bill. But nothing can prepare audiences for the shocking finale – and although the minutes leading up to the final sequence are drawn out for the sake of generating anticipation, the revelation is enthusiastically perverse and sickeningly appalling. Mixed into the weirdness is commentary on the rich consuming (literally) the poor, but it’s rapidly overcome by the comical (and glutinous) devastation of human bodies.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10