Weird Watch: Society

Drew Dietsch

Part of the joy of being a fan is finding odd and obscure gems that you end up falling in love with. For every Star Wars, there is a Starcrash. For every Batman, there is a Condorman. Here at Fandom, we like to go hunting for some offbeat and off-the-wall films and television shows that might just become your own secret treasures. Strap yourself in and expect the unexpected, because this is going to be a Weird Watch…

When we decided to launch Weird Watch, there was one film that felt like the perfect opening salvo to lob at you good readers. It’s a movie that sets the bar for unabashed weirdness incredibly high, offering up images that no viewer can ever properly expunge from their brain. It’s a cornerstone of crazed cinema that must be seen to be believed. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Brian Yuzna’s Society.

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Best known for his contributions to films like Re-Animator and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (which released the same year as Society), Yuzna made his directorial debut with this bizarre sci-fi/horror hybrid. Set in the idyllic neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, Society tells the story of Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock), an affluent and popular teenager who feels disconnected from his family and their high society friends. His unease is given some disturbing weight when his sister’s ex-boyfriend David Blanchard (Tim Bartell) begins to claim that Bill’s family are not what they seem. Blanchard plays Bill a recorded tape that sounds like Bill’s family engaging in an incestuous and murderous orgy. This sets Bill on a journey to find out what exactly is going on in his family, and the answers are much more horrible than imagined.

It’s tough to talk about what makes Society so special without diving into the climax of the film. For most of its running time, Society plays like any slow burn mystery/thriller with only a few hints of wackiness creeping in at the edges. It’s in the film’s final reel where everything goes absolutely bananas and Society becomes a necessary Weird Watch. If you prefer to stay unspoiled, stop reading and take our strong recommendation that Society is worth seeking out.

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Bill discovers that he was adopted when he was very young, and his family are actually a race of aliens who feed on humans during a giant ritual called “the shunt.” Pretty much everyone Bill has ever known is one of these creatures, and the ending of the film showcases these monsters in the most alarming of ways. All of the aliens merge their bodies into one massive creature, and it’s one of the goofiest and most delightfully unpleasant things you’ll ever see in a movie.

The allegory is pretty blatant here: rich people feed off the poor. Society isn’t doing anything groundbreaking in that arena, but it’s how it decides to make that point that turns the film into a cult classic. The effects in the film (by artist Screaming Mad George) manage to straddle the line between silly and sickening extremely well. The aliens apparently can shape-shift their bodies in a multitude of deranged ways, leading to indelible moments like this:

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Yes, that is a person’s head transformed into an enormous hand. And that’s not even the nuttiest thing in this flick. In Society, you’ll get to see a literal interpretation of a butt-head as well as a character getting turned inside out. It’s gonzo stuff that knows exactly how preposterous it is and just doesn’t care. The makeup effects are obviously rubbery and stupid, but that’s part of Society‘s unhinged charm. This is a movie that is having all the fun it possibly can with its ridiculous premise, and it’s a marvel to see unfold on the screen.

There’s plenty more absurdity in the movie but it’s something that should be witnessed on your own. Arrow Films put out an absolutely stellar Blu-ray of the film which you can purchase here, and this is a must-own for lovers of lunatic cinema. Society is guaranteed to turn some heads and possibly even churn some stomachs. There’s nothing else like it out there in the whole weird world.


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Drew Dietsch
Drew Dietsch has written for CHUD.com, the News-Press, WhatCulture, and releases a weekly film review podcast, The Drew Reviews Podcast. He'll yak your ear off about horror movies, Jaws, RoboCop, and/or Batman if you let him. www.thedrewreviews.com
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