‘Society’: The disgusting indie movie that changed body horror

Posted On
Posted By admin

Distrust echoed in the mere breeze of American suburbia through the 1970s, with the Watergate Scandal of 1972 forcing fear and paranoia to pervade the zeitgeist. Such was reflected in the cinema of the time, too, with Francis Ford Coppola’s Conversation and Alan J. Pakula’s Parallax View reflecting the anxiety and simmering horror of a population who no longer trusted the direction of the establishment.

While greed was looked down upon in the 1970s, by the following decade, the game of capitalism had America in a chokehold, and those with money began to be considered God-like in a society that valued money over morals. This bizarre new sociological obsession that festered in the 1980s was probed and mocked by filmmaker Brian Yuzna in his idiosyncratic horror flick Society, an icky nightmare that was layered with the paranoia of the former generation.

Set in the well-maintained streets of Beverly Hills, California, the plot centres on Bill (Billy Warlock), a teenager who begins to suspect that the meticulously groomed world around him might not be so pure. Very much a part of the social elite, Bill’s wealthy parents and sister cosy up to the other affluent members of the community, but the teenager isn’t as keen on joining them after uncovering several strange truths about their existence.

Squeezed into existence as the ugly duckling of a rejected sequel to Re-Animator, Society took the body horror ingenuity of its forebearer and crafted something, arguably, far more memorable. Part coming-of-age tale and part satirical body horror nightmare, Yuzna’s film plays on that ubiquitous paranoia of youth, where one senses that everything that came before your generation should be radically upended.

Society went against this mythology that anyone can make it, if you only work hard enough,” Yuzna proudly said of his film in an interview with Schokkend Nieuws, making reference to the final message of the movie that’s delivered through one of the most putrid body horror sequences ever put to film. Discovering the truth behind his family and the surrounding community, Bill wishes he’d remained ignorant, with the group revealing themselves as an alien society that feeds off each others’ flesh and demands assimilation for survival.

“I came up with the idea of a parasitic life force that invades the body of humans and allows them to exploit other humans,” the director added, “Whoever got infected became part of the ruling class. They intermarry to create the blue blood. One of the clichés of aristocracy is that intermarriage leads to a weak gene pool. If they don’t introduce new blood, they’ll all end up like idiots”.

Taking inspiration from the surrealism of Salvador Dalí, Yuzna’s Society’s notorious finale has since entered the ranks of horror history, rivalling the work of David Cronenberg and John Carpenter in just how far it pushes the body horror sub-genre. Lit in a sickening red hue, the bodies of the ruling class are glued together during the climax, with the protagonist forced to try and defeat the curious erotic mass of bodies while twisted carnival music heightens the sheer abomination of the scene.

Though horrifying, Society was also entirely sillier than the work of the aforementioned body horror aficionado David Cronenberg, revelling in just how egregiously it could bear its bad taste. Less of an ‘Eat the Rich’ movie and more of a ‘Despise the Rich’ movie, Society is adolescent in form and content, inspiring future horror filmmakers to treat the genre as a weapon to prod, provoke and satirise the behaviours of the upper classes.

From the equally horrid body-splicing work of James Gunn’s Slither to Cronenberg’s 2014 satire Maps to the Stars to the explosive 2019 horror Ready or Not, Society’s influence is widespread.

[embedded content]

Related Topics

Related Post