Friday, August 24, 2012

Throw-Back Movie Review: "Society" by Ben Foutch

Release: 1989
Director: Brian Yuzna
Writers: Rick Fry, Woody Keith
Stars: Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez and Evan Richards

Rated: R
Run Time: 99 min

Brian Yuzna's overlooked and severely underrated directorial debut, "Society", is paranoid, stomach churning fun. For some reason it didn't become a hit in the United State upon its release in 1992, but maybe it was just way ahead of its time. While it certainly has a high "cheese" factor and a morbid sense of humor, the theme carries a timeless quality that will always remain relevant. Try not to have a belly full of tasty food, but if you do, be sure to grab a puke bucket.

On the surface, Bill seems to be doing pretty good in life.  He comes from a wealthy family, dates an attractive cheerleader and has a good chance of becoming class-president at his high school. But something just doesn't feel right. He has paranoid delusions which lead him to believe that something is wrong with himself or his family. On top of that, he isn't a member of "society" like his parents, sister and other popular kids at school. After listening to a secret recording that features his family, he is dead certain they are not what they appear to be, and there is a big conspiracy aimed at keeping him in the dark.

Society is a comedy/thriller that is basically an allegory for social inequality. You are either born an elite or just another cog in their machine. This is the main theme of the movie and it has fun with that particular motif. As the audience, we are like Bill. That is, we are aware that something is off kilter. There are the obvious, surreal depictions of people contorting and twisting into unnatural positions that may or may not just be a figment of our imaginations; and there are also the body language and facial expressions that show a hint of darkness, slithering underneath their exterior masks.

If the majority of the movie doesn't earn your undivided attention, it is safe to say that the climax will. Have you ever wondered what it would look like if someone was the physical embodiment of a "butt face"? Well, rest assured, that life long fantasy is laid to rest, along with other revoltingly hilarious scenarios. To say that the practical effects work during the last portion of the film are great, does not do it justice. I've never really seen anything quite like this before. It was grotesque, but over the top, and when their practice of "shunting" is accompanied by "The Eton Boating Song", it makes eating someone else's regurgitated food look elegant.

For being a low budget, first directing gig for Brian Yuzna, this is actually pretty solid. Sure, some of the acting and dialogue isn't the greatest, but it was still effective in terms of inducing some chuckles and building a sense of paranoia. If you can find this gem, give it a shot, because that ending is a slimy good time.