Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 25th, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1989
Director: Brian Yuzna
Writers: Rick Fry, Woody Keith
Cast: Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards, Ben Meyerson, Charles Lucia, Concetta D’Agnese, Patrice Jennings, Heidi Kozak
BluRay released: June 8th, 2015 (UK) / June 9th, 2015 (USA)
Approximate running times: 99 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: R (USA) / 18 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Stereo English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video USA
Region Coding: Region Free / Region Free NTSC
Retail Price: $39.95 (USA) / £17.99 (UK)
Society was directed by Brian Yuzna who’s other notable films as a director include, Bride of Re-Animator and The Dentist. Other notable films that he worked on as a producer include, Re-Animator, From Beyond and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.
Society was unleashed on an unsuspecting audience at the very end of what was a fruitful decade for horror film fans. Unfortunately unlike so many other films that were able to garner attention this film all but faded away after its initial release. And though there are many factors why any given film does not connect with an audience, fatigue within the horror genre after a very successful decade was most definitely not a factor. If anything this film was way ahead of its time! It was unlike any of contemporaries who for the most part where nothing more body count films. And like other cerebral horror films, it challenged you with what it was trying say and anyone looking to be spoon feed their horror should look elsewhere.
Though Society starts off with a quick scare before its opening credits. It is not until the film’s final act where this film’s true moment of horror resides. With a scene involving something called ‘The Shunting’ being the center piece of this film’s final act. More on ‘The Shunting’ later on in this review.
The opening act is spent setting up who everyone is and what their motivations are, while the middle act of the film slightly shifts tone as things start to delve into the psychological horror realm with this film’s protagonist starting to loss grasp on reality.
The narrative is well constructed and there is never an issues with momentum as things move along briskly to this moment of truth ‘The Shunting’. What is ‘The Shunting’ it is a ritual performed by the rich where they raise an outsider who was born from a lesser class then them and they feast on said outsider. Needless to say this scene is not for the faint of heart and though there is consumption going on, there is also something oddly sexual about this scene with bodies and flesh intertwined.
Visually the film does not miss a beat and besides the aforementioned ‘The Shunting’ scene. Other stand out moments visually include a scene where the protagonist walks in on his sister showing and from his point of view it looks like she has breasts on her back. Another standout moment is when the protagonist has a sexual encounter with the most popular girl in school and she just also happens to be one of them whose family is involved in ‘The Shunting’. Something startles him, making him fall out of bed and when he looks back he sees her body contorted in ways that should not be possible.
When talking about this film one should not overlook its use of special effects, especially since they are all practical instead of today’s standard CGI. And though there are a few effects that don’t come out unscathed, thankfully for the majority of them they are very effect and then some, I am looking at you ‘The Shunting’.
From a performance standpoint the entire cast a delight to watch as they all give enthusiastic performances which make the story at hand all the more fun to watch. Anchoring this film is Billy Warlock in the role of this film’s troubled protagonist. Though he is most known for his work of Baywatch and soap operas like ‘Days of our Lives’, he gives a first rate performance that easily ranks among his best work as an actor. And when it comes to eye candy there is no need to further then Devin DeVasquez (Can’t Buy Me Love) in the role of the young woman whose oddly contorted body catches the protagonist off guard.
Another strength of this film is its score, more specially the use of the ‘Eton Boat Song’ and new lyrics drive home this film’s central them classism. Ultimately it was only a matter of time before audiences finally caught up with Society a criminally unrated satire that has not lost any of its potency after all these years.
Society comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. This new release has been sourced from a brand new 2k transfer that was surprised by Brian Yuzna. The end result is a solid transfer as colors look vibrant, flesh tones look accurate, black levels look consistently strong and detail look crisp throughout. Also there are no issues with DNR or compression and grain look natural throughout.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM stereo mix in English. The audio sounds clean, clear, balanced and robust when it needs too. Range wise this audio mix gets the job done and then some. With the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack being well represented. Also included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles.
Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (2minutes 8 seconds – 1080 Progressive), a vintage interview with director Brian Yuzna from Society’s world premiere (1 minute 56 seconds), a brief segment titled ‘Persecution Mania’ (4 minutes 1 second), Screaming Mad George music video (6 minutes 9 seconds), 2014 Q&A with Brian Yuzna, recorded at Celluloid Screams Festival (38 minutes 34 seconds – 1080 Progressive), three interviews – the first interview titled ‘Governor of Society’ with Brian Yuzna (16 minutes 52 seconds – 1080 Progressive), the second interview titled ‘The Masters of the Hunt’ with stars Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Ben Meyerson and Tim Bartell (22 minutes 22 seconds – 1080 Progressive) and the third interview titled ‘The Champion of the Shunt’ with FX artists Screaming Mad George, David Grasso and Nick Benson (20 minutes 39 seconds – 1080 Progressive) and an audio commentary with Brian Yuzna and moderator David Gregory.
Topics discussed in the interview titled ‘Governor of Society’ include, how he go into filmmaking as a producer and how he had difficulty getting movies made because the directors he wanted were unavailable, Dan O’Bannon and ‘The Men’ a project that he collaborated on with him that was never made, why he choose to direct Society and the origins of the film, Screaming Mad George and the special effects that appear in the film, harsh critical reaction to the film when it was first released and how its popularity has grown over the years.
Topics discussed in the interview titled ‘The Masters of the Hunt’ include, all the participates discuss how they got cast for the film, their thoughts on the screenplay and its most infamous scene ‘The Shunting’, working with Brian Yuzna, the challenges that arose while filming the love scene, special effects and their thoughts on the film.
Topics discussed in the interview titled The Champion of the Shunt’ include, how he got his name ‘Screaming Mad George’, how he participant got involved with this film and they also discuss in depth the special effects which appear in the film.
Topics discussed in the audio commentary include, The screenplay and additions that were made to the screenplay, the cast, the score and the use of ‘The Eton Boating’ song, the look of the film, special effects, the lack of blood in ‘The Shunting’ scene and how this film financiers demanded a R rating, the difficulties of being a first time filmmaker, films that influenced him as a filmmaker and his thoughts on the film
Rounding out the extras include Limited Edition Digipak packaging, ‘Society: Party Animal’ – the official comic sequel to Society, reproduced in its entirety in a perfect-bound book and a twenty four page booklet with cast & crew information, a lengthy essay about the film titled ‘Keep it in the Family’ written by Alan Jones and information about this film’s transfer. Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall another exceptional release from Arrow Video who continue to raise the bar with their limited edition release for Society, highly recommended.