Brian Yuzna’s Society is a disgusting, campy cult delight, serving up a cocktail of satire, paranoia, and inventive body horror. The rich really are different from you and me.
Society follows Bill Whitney, a Beverly Hills teenager from a wealthy family. At first glance, he seems to be on the top of the social heap–he’s a basketball star with a beautiful girlfriend. But below the surface, he’s a mass of writhing insecurities, unable to get over the idea that there’s a key distance–and a key difference–between him and the other members of his family. (He can’t even get invited to the right parties!) Bill’s worries lead him into a descent into a nightmare world of sex, cover-ups, and conspicuous consumption.
The film’s total lack of interest in subtlety works, satirically, in its favor: Society may have invented the exact way the rich feed off the lower classes, but it hasn’t invented the way money and stature bring a kind of inescapable, reality-warping power. The actual society in Society creates cover-ups so flimsy they’re practically transparent and only barely and intermittently bothers to hide its contempt for the people it’s using. But it doesn’t matter, because it is, of course, all about who you know and who you can buy: judges, police officers, paramedics, psychiatrists. The film is likewise straightforward about the politics of who belongs in “society” and who doesn’t: dweeby Martin Petrie, who can get laughed off the stage at a high school debate, is still part of the upper-crust, unshakably so, whereas Jewish David Blanchard isn’t and never will be.
More than anything else, though, Society is just so gleefully weird. There’s the John Waters-esque Mrs. Carlyn in her bright-colored tracksuits, gobbling down hair and sicking it back up again; there’s open father/mother/daughter incest (they even sneak away during a party to have a threesome, like they can’t keep their hands off each other); there are more fake corpses than you could shake a stick at. The body horror is elaborate and strange and sometimes sickly funny, at one point producing a literal butthead, because why not? It all adds up to a grotesque, hysterical, and ambitious whole.
“You know, you really deserve what’s going to happen to you.”
“What’s gonna happen?”
“You’re going to make a wonderful contribution to society.”
Society is available on Shudder.