Society

A high school kid (Billy Warlock) grows suspicious of his high-society family upon hearing a disturbing recording from his sister’s (Patrice Jennings) Debutante Ball, which I’d assumed Gilmore Girls had made up. Does this mean the Festival of Living Art is a thing too?

Apparently the British press praised this American horror movie in 1989 but US critics were less receptive when it was released there three years later, a telling cultural response to Brian Yuzna’s commentary on class. Its grotesque satire of the Reaganite nuclear family shares genetics with Wes Craven’s The People Under The Stairsand the obscenely funny special effects with Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator and From Beyond (both produced by Yuzna) – but Society makes those look tame, a defiantly individualistic film as much about the coalescence of culture as the horror of adolescence.

The idea of the repulsively wealthy feeding off the poor is graphically brought to life in one of the greatest climaxes in genre history by Screaming Mad George’s (Big Trouble in Little China, Predator, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) indescribable, orgiastic practical effects, accompanied by the best use of The Blue Danube since 2001: A Space Odyssey. Even the kinky, kitsch build-up is strangely unsettling (and I don’t just mean the mullets), like Rosemary’s Baby as directed by John Carpenter – the ’80s paranoia of They Live mashed up with the body horror of early Cronenberg.

Our Michael J. Foxalike hero’s discovery of a sick society is a true coming of age tale, like John Hughes meets John Waters. Yuzna literally turns the incestuous upper classes inside out and the results have to be seen to be believed. Margaret Thatcher may not have believed in it, but Society is repulsive in all the right places.

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