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Review: SOCIETY (1989) -Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival 2018

Brian Yunza has been a driving force in genre film from the 80s onward. As a writer, producer and director he’s had his hand in titles such as RE-ANIMATOR, HONEY I SHRUNK THE KIDS, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3 and CRYING FREEMAN. But it was his directorial debut SOCIETY that served notice of just what a talent he was.

With its paranoia drenched plot and explicit social themes all leading up to its incredible, effects-filled climax, it was bound to attract attention. And it did, becoming a popular rental title, but it never got a wide theatrical run, so like most people I never saw it on the big screen. Until it played as part of this year’s Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival and its body horror retrospective along with VIDEODROME and BODY MELT. The restored print from Arrow Films was a great way to finally see it.

For those not familiar with SOCIETY it’s the tale of Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) the son of an extremely wealthy California family. He has everything, but isn’t happy. He’s convinced he’s not really his parent’s child and that something bad is about to happen. Soon he’s catching glimpses of bodies doing things they shouldn’t be able to do, hearing extremely disturbing conversations and running across dead, and not so dead, bodies. He might be right after all.

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SOCIETY takes the phrase “The rich are different from you and me” to a whole new level. As in the previous year’s THEY LIVE, the rich aren’t human. Here they’re not aliens but a separate species. One that literally feeds off of humans. Getting a sadistic pleasure in tormenting and humiliating them along the way. As one of them tells Billy, “The rich have always fed off the poor”. I don’t think the film could make a more blunt point about class warfare if it tried.

Even after almost thirty years, the effects during the “shunting” which makes up the film’s final act are amazing to look at. Screaming Mad George set the bar for low budget but high impact practical effects. Not only are they well executed, the imagery itself is disturbing as hell. It’s like a segment of one of those Medieval paintings of Hell brought to life.

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I’ve always wished SOCIETY had spawned a sequel, but absent that, a beautifully restored print will have to do. If you haven’t seen this film, do so now. If you haven’t seen it since VHS days, now is the time to revisit it.

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Society – The Arrow Video Story

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