Release Date(s)1989 (August 22, 2017)
Studio(s)Wild Street Pictures (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A
Society was released (or escaped, depending on how you look at it) in 1992 in the U.S., despite being completed and released elsewhere in 1989. It was directed by horror veteran Brian Yuzna, who also later directed Bride of Re-Animator and Return of the Living Dead 3 (amongst others). Although he worked on horror films before and after, nothing he ever made had the same kind of visceral impact as Society.
A satirical look at the Beverly Hills lifestyle, Society is John Hughes meets David Cronenberg. It tells the story of a young man who, after suspecting that he’s adopted, begins having supposed hallucinations about his socialite family and what they’re up to when he’s not around. Relating all of this to his psychiatrist, he soon learns that things are even stranger than he could have possibly imagined, resulting in one of the weirdest reveals in all of horror movie history.
Society is one part teen comedy, two parts paranoiac thriller, and all parts social commentary. As the film’s third act kicks into high gear with its special make-up effects extravaganza, you begin to understand why people were so perplexed by it when it was originally released (to some degree, many of them still are). It’s an altogether odd movie, attempting to pull you in with one type of movie and then going off to tell you about an entirely different one. Yet, the performances and the disgusting effects still give it a lot of its staying power. They’re so extreme that it’s difficult to talk about the film without mentioning them.
Personally, I didn’t find much of a deep connection with Society. I certainly think that it’s a film worth watching and that everyone involved put their all into it, but I wasn’t particularly drawn in by it. Some of it has to do with the fact that I’m just not big on teen movies, that is, movies about teens, especially those from a particular class, and watching their daily routines unfold. It’s difficult to explain, but there it is. That was a big hurtle for me to jump over right away going in. That said, once all was revealed, it was easier to watch (if that’s even possible). Despite Society being on many people’s favorites lists, I can’t honestly say that it’s on any of mine, but don’t take my word for it. You be the judge.
Arrow Video’s Region Free Steelbook Blu-ray release of Society features a transfer via a 2K restoration from a second generation 35mm intermediate interpositive print. It sports very natural and refined film grain, revealing an enormous amount of fine detail. There’s also terrific color reproduction with accurate skin tones and deep blacks. Contrast and brightness levels are also quite acceptable, and there are no signs of digital enhancements to be found. It’s a very clean presentation as well, with few film artifacts leftover, including some mild speckling and an occasional line running through the frame here and there. The audio, which is an English 2.0 LPCM track, is also quite pleasing. Dialogue is always clean and clear, and both score and sound effects have plenty of room to breathe. There’s also some nice spatial movement from time to time, as well as some light bass. It’s a great presentation, all around. Subtitles are offered in English SDH for those who might need them.
There’s also a nice amount of extras as well, including an audio commentary with director Brian Yuzna, with moderator David Gregory; Governor of Society, an interview with Yuzna; the Masters of the Hunt and Champion of the Shunt featurettes; a Brian Yuzna Q&A from a 2014 screening of the film at the Celluloid Screams Festival; Brian Yuzna: Society Premiere footage; the original theatrical trailer; a music video for Screaming Mad George’s Persecution Mania; an Easter egg, which is Screaming Mad George’s Psycho-Fiction: Boy in the Box trailer; and a 24-page insert booklet with an essay on the film by Alan Jones – all of it housed in handsome Steelbook packaging.
Society certainly isn’t for everybody. It’s the type of body horror that you rarely see, wherein it actually has something to say instead of showing off with needless special effects. Some might call it pretentious, but regardless, it’s fairly well-executed. Despite not digging it as much as I thought I would, others certainly will. Mix that with a terrific release from Arrow Video and you’ve got yourself a winner.
- Tim Salmons