Society

3 out of 5

Directed by: Brian Yuzna

A delightfully enthusiastic performance from lead Billy Warlock and a generally surreal, off feeling to the film help keep Society – Brian Yuzna’s first film as a director – afloat atop a somewhat clunky construction and aimless characterization, up through that truly unforgettable conclusion.  That final thirty minutes or so – the Shunting – a word as perfectly horrific sounding as what occurs, is clunky and aimless itself, true, but it’s also this can’t-look-away pinnacle of all of the bits and pieces of commentary the film can’t really find a voice for, bubbled up into goopy visuals.  As revealed in the film’s extras, Society was built around its two most recognizable factors – those ending effects and that pervasive sense of “offness” – and while it’s definitely not a perfect flick as a result of that piecemeal construction, that also lends it its unique and weird vibe.  It’s very watchable as a result, and once you’re used to the clunkiness, slots in with some of the best “off” movies of that 80s era, and helps to reveal some of its subversiveness, hidden ‘neath its goofy 80s veneer: lead Billy (Billy Warlock) seems like he should be the handsome, popular kid in his high school, and he is, at the film’s outset, with Society playing around with casual nudity and nerd jokes familiar to the era’s frat house comedies, but an incredibly weird homelife – parents who treat him like he doesn’t belong; dreams of being stalked by his mother; watching his sister through her shower door contort into impossible positions – precedes hints of some kind of secret sex? or murder? or sexmurder? society – and then Billy’s life starts breaking down.  And then the Shunting.

There’s a lot here that makes no sense, but it’s part of the generally surreal nature of the whole thing.  Ideally, some of the dumber and more indulgent stuff would have been dialed down in favor of some more direct – and not, possibly, accidental – commentary, as that could’ve pushed Society across the line into a true classic, but that doesn’t prevent it from being a top tier, and still class-of-its-own, body horror B-movie.