• Society (Umbrella Entertainment) DVD Review



    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: April 4th, 2018.
    Director: Brian Yuzna
    Cast: Ben Meyerson, Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards, Ben Slack
    Year: 1989
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    The Movie:

    Brian Yuzna's Society stars Billy Warlock who had a bit part in Halloween II (probably because his father played Michael Myers in the film) who is probably best known for strutting along the beach with David Hasslehoff in Baywatch. Warlock plays Bill, a high-school senior, with some unusual social problems. He feels that he doesn't fit in with either his family or his friends. This isn't so uncommon for someone his age but Bill takes this to an extreme and even goes so far as to tell his psychiatrist, played by Ben Slack (of Silent Night Deadly Night 4), that he thinks he's adopted. Regardless, Bill is awkward and seemingly uncomfortable in his own skin.

    While the film starts off in the same vein as a lot of teen comedies from the eighties, it quickly progresses into something much darker and much weirder. This all starts when Bill starts looking into the reasons why he feels so disjointed from his family and friends.

    When he starts to perceive those around him and those who are close to him as incestuous and cannibalistic perverts, his psychiatrist really starts to question Bill's sanity. But what if it's all true and what if he's not imagining it? Something is definitely ‘off' in his strange social circle. He confirms this when one of his friends produces a tape recording of his sister engaged in some kinky sex acts with her mother and father urging her to keep going and indeed, even offering some suggestions as to how to make work better for her.

    Bill, obviously perplexed by this recent discovery, sets out to uncover what's really going on as no one will listen to him or give him any credibility. And this is where the movie starts to get into some seriously bizarre territory (about two thirds of the way through). As the last act plays out Yuzna employs some rather unorthodox visuals and genuinely disgusting moments, the kind that you really will not see coming. These carry on through the rest of the movie and bring it to a particularly unsettling climax.

    Society definitely earns some points for trying something new within the horror genre. Sure, it hits on some clichés and the humor is lowbrow at times, but it doesn't feel out of place when dealing with the teenagers in the film and it really will sneak up on you in the last hit. There's some cleverness to the script that mixes well with the insane visual style while the humor is effectively black and decidedly twisted.

    Brian Yuzna (Return of the Living Dead Part III, Bride of Re-Animator) crafts a tense and freaky work of horrific social satire with this directorial debut, and it remains, in my opinion at least, his best work to date. Solid performances from the lead and supporting actors help things here. Billy Warlock may not be a household name but he does fine work in the lead and the rest of the bit part players assembled to round out the cast are believable enough. Some all too familiar sets and locations make Society work on a level that, for anyone who grew up in the 80s, is recognizable enough to really get under your skin.

    The special effects, by Screaming Mad George (Faust: Love of the Damned, Bride of Re-Animator) are a notch or two above the work you would expect to see in a low budget 80s horror movie. They genuinely still hold up very well even in these days of over abundant CGI. Worth noting is that when Republic originally released the film on home video, almost four minutes of the FX work was cut out during the last twenty minutes of the film due to the sexual and graphic nature of the work. All of that footage was restored in the Anchor Bay DVD release that came out years back and it is included in this DVD from Umbrella as well.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Society arrives on Region 4 encoded DVD from Umbrella Entertainment framed at 1.78.1 widescreen in a standard definition presentation that looks to be taken from an older master. The interlaced image is frequently on the soft side in spots but some of that stems back to the photography. Obviously, detail doesn’t really compare to the remastered Blu-ray release that Arrow put out (reviewed here) but it’s watchable enough, if a tad murky in spots. Colors are a bit flat but black levels are fine. The image shows only occasional and very minor print damage.

    The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track also fares well for a standard definition offering even if, again, it isn’t as good as the Blu-ray release. The dialogue is easy to follow and nicely balanced against the score and the sound effects and there are no problems to note with any hiss or distortion.

    Extras on the disc start out with an audio commentary with Brian Yuzna moderated by David Gregory and Carl Daft. It's a solid track that moves at a good pace. Yuzna is quite open about his thoughts on the film, the performances, the effects and the more extreme content that it contains but he approaches it all with the right mix of humor and insight. The moderators keep him talking and on topic and this is a pretty informative chat.

    Aside from that we get a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Umbrella releases (Spontaneous Combustion, Candyman, Bride Of Re-Animator and The Stepfather), menus and chapter selection. Again, the Blu-ray release had a load of supplements on it that aren’t included here.

    The Final Word:

    Brian Yuzna's Society remains as startling and bizarre as it has ever been. It's an original and twisted work of horror and social commentary highlighted by some amusing performances and strong effects work. If DVD is your think and you don’t opt for the previously released Blu-ray edition, this is a fine option.