09 February 2017

"Didn't ya know, Billy-boy? The rich have always sucked off low-class shit like you!"

It's not too common these days to run into a movie that has an ending so fucked up, unforgettable, and wild that it sticks with you forever. Oldboy, The Usual Suspects, Fight Club - these are some of those rare movies with not just a great twist, but a fantastic reveal, meaning that the "twist" wasn't necessarily a twist seeing as how the clues were there all along. In many cases, a movie's "twist" is just that: a reveal, which had been hinted to the viewer all throughout the movie.

And then there's movies like Society.

Society (1989) does not have the aforementioned twist/reveal that makes your eyes widen as you say, "ohh, okay! I get it! Wow!!" No; this one will only leave you with the wide eyes and the "Wow!!"

society poster


In Society, right off the bat you know there's something rotten in Denmark, it's just that it's difficult to pinpoint what exactly that rotten thing is. Yes, there are hints left behind for you, but calling them "hints" feels unfair because they're more like puzzle pieces that end up revealing a photo of you looking at the puzzle you've only just completed. Even if you solve one aspect, the end result is going to catch you completely off guard and have you scratching your head because what the hell, man?

Among unseasoned horror fans and the general layman, Society has sat in the corner of the ballroom, quiet and unnoticed. This can be said of many late-'80s horrors that didn't quite make the cult status cut or don't have the benefit of random late-night TV airings that a lot of horror flicks of the sort tend to have. And like most under-the-radar horror flicks, Society's obscurity is a crime.

If I had to describe Society without giving away the stuff that I'd be a complete ass (lol, references) for giving away, I would say that it's a 1980s coming-of-age teen comedy about a kid who just doesn't seem to fit in, if such a film were helmed by David Cronenberg, with a dash of David Fincher brand paranoia. Bill Whitney, our protagonist, is a rich California teenager who's suffering from his own paranoid tendencies, and whether or not this paranoia is unfounded is to be decided. Much like The Game, there are clues that tell us both that the protag is crazy and that he's totally onto something, and the pieces of the puzzle are basically thrown in our faces so we can pick them all up and attempt (and fail) to put them together. But please, folks who have yet to watch Society, don't even bother trying to piece together the puzzle. Just let it unfold before you, because, and I can't stress this enough, you ain't gonna figure out jackshit.

But aside from the above, Society is also a family drama about a kid's parents and sister who are really just trying to bring the family closer together. Like, really close together.

Society at its core is a satirical and disgusting look on the hypothetical unseen sinister doings of the rich and the elite. It is a piece that looks beyond the shit-eating grins and white marble interiors of the wealthy and tells us that there is some seriously dirty stuff going on in the lives of those who stay so clean. And like some of the best satires, the end result is so fucking in-your-face and lacking entirely of subtlety that you can't help but laugh uproariously and gleefully go with the flow.

It might take a bit of patience to get through Society since, as is true of damn near every '80s coming-of-age comedy (horror or otherwise), it's brimming with cheese, but the cheesy bits are at least more tolerable than most slices of provolone from 1989 tend to be. Yeah, there's a character or two that's just really fucking out there and kind of unnecessary, but that's some of the charm of Society. This is a flick that doesn't take itself seriously (and how can it?) but not to the point where it becomes a straight parodic comedy. While the movie isn't necessarily scary, the horror elements are still there; it's just that the comedy portions are there just as much - and, though either can be exceptionally corny at times, they complement each other perfectly. It's in the same vein as Peter Jackson's Dead Alive, just with more paranoia and the juicy bits don't arrive until the last twenty minutes or so. And like Dead Alive, Society's humor might be lost on some. No doubt there are people who won't be able to differentiate the funny from the foul. But frankly, that's their problem. Loosen up, folks!

If Society suffers from anything, though, it's the to-be-expected-from-the-80s cringe that admittedly oozes from one too many scenes. Whether it's cringey dialogue, lame attempts at humor, or unusual clothing choices, there's a fair share of "erm... ehh" moments in Society. Again, though, much like the cheese, this is easily dismissible, since it's to be expected. But still... it can be pretty bad.

So, yeah, Society ain't perfect. But it's just so fucking good. I guess not everyone will dig it, but if you're into pretty much any of the flicks I've listed here, there's a good chance you'll love it. And either way, you should watch it, at least for the wild finale, which will be something you'll think about a lot for the rest of your life. Whenever you hear the word "society," or should somebody ever call you "butthead," and, hell - even the next time you have sex, unfortunately, you'll compulsorily remember the last twenty minutes of Society. Trust me.

Just don't blame me for that.

About the Author

Brad Grandrino