Friday, April 20, 2018

SOCIETY (1989) (Umbrella DVD Review)

SOCIETY (1989) 

Label: Umbrella Entertainment 
Region: Region-Free 
Rating: M
Duration: 99 Minutes
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.77:1)
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Brian Yuzna
Cast: Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards

Synopsis: Legendary schlock producer Brian Yuzna (Re-animator, Return of the Living Dead), creates a tense and gory work of horrific social satire in his directorial debut. Billy Whitney (Billy Warlock - Baywatch, General Hospital), a model rich kid and prefect at the Beverley Hills Academy who enjoys rubbing oil into his girlfriend around the pool, is inexplicably embroiled in a spiraling web of fear and paranoia, a surreal, psychotic world that is fast becoming a nightmare. His worst fears are realized when he crashes a perverse socialite gathering that turns into a shocking, and sticky, shunting ritual. The sick and disturbing finale was made possible through ultra-special effects by Screaming Mad George! After 4 minutes were censored for its American release, Society is now presented totally uncut and uncensored, including full restoration of the infamous orgy scene.

High schooler Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock, Halloween II) seems to have it all on the surface, he's a good looking teen with a cute looking cheerleader girlfriend, and he comes from an affluent Beverly Hills family. He even drives around in a Jeep Wrangler, which in the 80s was what every teen wanted, at least I did, until I realized that most people in Wranglers were sort of douche nozzles, you ever notice that? Despite his good breeding, fortune and affluence something has always seemed a bit off to him. Billy doesn't seem to fit into the Beverly Hills high society crowd, he's an affluent outsider. He regularly sees a therapist, Dr. Cleveland (Ben Slack, My Chauffeur), to address the paranoia-laced nightmares he suffers from, but when Blanchard (Tim Bartell, Meatballs, Part II) approaches hims with an audio cassette with what sounds like a bizarre incestuous orgy involving his sister and their parents things begin to spiral out of control for the young man. When he approaches his therapist with the wild story the doc doesn't believe his story, only prescribing a stronger prescription for happy pills, but it will certainly take more than Prozac to set things right for the troubled teen when he discovers the grotesque truth about high society in Beverly Hills.

Society begins like a nightmare version of Beverly Hills 90210 with some affluent high school drama, teenage angst with a few small scenes of weirdness, such as when Billy walks in on his sister Jenny (Patrice Jennings) in the bathroom, she's in the shower but appears to have breasts on her backside, which is confusing to say the least. This contorted bit of kinky weirdness is just our first glimpse at the weird body horror elements that await us in this one, but certainly not the last, there's plenty more to come as the layers begin to peel back exposing the awful truth of the matter. 

The money-shot of the movie is an extended orgy of stretched out flesh, a strange celebration of twisted bodies and kinky oddness that drives home the point that upper high society has always fed off the lower classes. The surreal special effects of Screaming Mad George (Curse II: The Bite) are in full force, creating a dizzying series of body-horror sights like you've never seen before, this is why I love the 80's -- the over-driven special effects were awesome. The strange feeding/orgy scene is bathed in red light with a the darkly comic tone about it, very weird and wonderful, while the tagline for the film Screamers (1980) promised a scene of a man being turned inside out, this film actually delivers on that promise with a very memorable "shunting", body-horror fans are gonna love this one, it's so damn creepy, gross and gooey.  

While I do love the movie I admit that it suffer a bit from stiff acting, particularly the attractive young ladies cast in the movie, they're easy on the eyes but maybe not the most gifted actresses ever put onscreen, nope, these gorgeous ladies were cast for certain other top-shelf criteria. In a weird sort of way the flat line deliveries work in the film's favor, creating a strange atmosphere and that feeling that somethings not quite right. This was Brian Yuzna's directorial debut which probably attributed to the stiffness of the film, but overall this is a solid movie, and a body-horror powerhouse of a film. It does help that Warlock as Billy is an easy guy to get behind, he does a great job tapping into that weird teen paranoia that I think we all experienced at one point at that very transitory age. I remember as a young boy I watched the original Invaders from Mars on TV, afterward I was convinced the neighbors were aliens, I can only imagine what sort of fucked-upped weirdness I would have suffered if I'd watched Society in my early teens, it's a strange one, lovers of bizarre body-horror should seek this one out.

Audio/Video: Society (1989) arrives DVD (What? No Blu-ray, c'mon Umbrella!) framed in 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen, it's a good looking transfer, not sure what the source is, but it's free of blemishes and colors looks solid. The film has always had a certain softness about it, but this looks accurate to the source as I've seen it represented on various other home video releases. The English Dolby Digital 2.0 audio sounds good, clean and free of distortion, there are no subtitles. 

The extras are slim, offering an audio commentary from director Brian Yuzna (I believe this is the same commentary as the Arrow release), a trailer for the film and a handful of Umbrella trailers.  The single-disc Blu-ray release comes housed in a standard DVD keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of featuring the original movie poster illustration, which is also featured on the disc. 

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary by Director Brian Yuzna
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins)
- Umbrella Propaganda: Spontaneous Combustion (2 min), Candyman (2 min), Bride of Re-Animator (1 min), The Stepfather (2 min)

That Society (1989) is only available from Umbrella on DVD is a bit head scratcher, it's already received the deluxe treatment from Arrow Video on Blu-ray in other territories, here's hoping that down the line this ends up as part of Umbrella's recently announced  Beyond Genres: Worlds on Film series, which has already announced three Yuzna productions slated for deluxe Blu-ray releases in 2018, those being Bride of Re-Animator (1990) and Beyond Re-Animator (2003) - both directed by Yuzna - and Dagon (1001), which he produced for director Stuart Gordon, so that would make sense, but we will have to wait and see.