The Chronicles of Horror Movie Night: Society (1989)

Posted by Damon Swindall - December 23rd 2011 @ 10:16 pm

After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. Horror’s Not Dead’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter!

Poster art for Society

Time to break out the cardigan sweaters, learn which fork is the salad fork and practice your haughtiest laugh because this week Horror Movie Night is taking a look into the upper crust. Yes, those damned one-percenters are much more than just money-hungry control freaks. With Brian Yuzna’s (Bride of Re-Animator, Return of the Living Dead III) 1989 film Society we are given a glimpse into a world of the privileged, and what they do to stay that way. It’s going to blow your mind hole!

Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) is not too sure of his family. He never felt he belonged in the group with his upper class parents and sister, Jenny. He thinks it all might be in his mind but his sister’s beau, Blanchard, secretly tapes conversations between Jenny and good old mom and dad that shine a weird light on their relationship. But is Billy just imagining everything or is something odd really going on around him? Blanchard turns up dead in a suspicious car accident and Billy finds himself in some very strange circumstances. But none of this will ever prepare him for the party he walks in on at his home.

Bill: I don’t think about them, they don’t think about me. We’re just one big happy family… except for a little incest and psychosis.

This film is one that I’ve missed though the years though I knew a little bit about the bat shit crazy last act. The timing was never right for me to watch this blend of horror and comedy, but now HMN has brought the gleeful shock into my life and I’m forever greatful. It’s going to be really hard to talk about this film and not go into detail on the end so this is your warning. If you’d rather watch this unspoiled go for it and stop reading now. Otherwise, we’ll continue.

Beach fun!

The first three quarters of the movie are relatively rooted in reality. The rich kids go to school with other rich kids. They play on the beach and have parties like normal high schoolers with money. Billy has a girlfriend, but is tempted away by a mysterious hot girl who beds him and delivers him pleasures so powerful that it causes his face to do this. As he gets closer and closer to the truth things get a little weird, but nothing more extreme than the number of late 80s mullets and awesome full denim dresses – which is quite high. Once Blanchard dies in the car accident and Bill sees another student, Petrie, with his throat slit things get a bit odd. The next day at school when he tries to tell everyone about their classmates’ demise Petrie shows up unharmed. It’s not long until he goes from his pseudo normal life to possibly the strangest get-together ever.

Bill’s parents are hosting a large group of their “society friends” and all the rich and powerful are there, including a big wig judge. Bill is restrained and forced to watch their warm-up victim before he becomes the main course. Everyone strips down as they bring out the believed dead Blanchard who is then ravaged by a small section of the party guests with groping and eventually what they call shunting. This is when these rich writhe around on the poor and powerless while their bodies transform into a taffy like consistency as they meld with the victim and feed off of him.

Yeah, what the fuck is the right response to have about now.

These far-out FX take a decent movie and propel it into the realm of crazy, surreal and amazing! That visceral duty is handled by the one and only Screaming Mad George, who also left his mark on HMN alum Hide and Go Shriek as well as the awesome cockroach design from A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, and these are some visuals that do not disappoint. All of the well-to-do partygoers twist and transform from their normal selves into mounds of flesh that run from one body into the other seamlessly. Bill’s family even deviates to have his mother and sister become one being at a certain point while his father’s face has been relocated to his ass. Yes, he does make a bad “butthead” joke.

Bill's Butthead Father

The tone of the film is rather strange. It’s as if Bret Easton Ellis took some of his characters from his novel Less Than Zero and mixed them into a Cronenberg film with just a hint of levity. This is far from a complaint. I actually think it’s a great mix. Definitely not something I would expect to be directed by the same guy who wrote Honey, I Shrunk the Kids but that same guy also wrote From Beyond so I guess in the end it’s not too surprising.

Clarissa: How do you like your tea? Cream, sugar, or do you want me to pee in it?

This is an absolutely bananas movie that’s highly recommended. There are really only two deaths in the whole thing but the graphic depictions you get from them are well worth the low body count. You will be left with nightmares of shunting and probably find yourself locking your doors the next time you drive through that rich part of town.

Until next week – this film would make a great bit of protest video for the Occupy movement.

Body Count: 2
Best Death: Turned inside out!
Number of Mullets: Around 5 or 6
Number of Times They Say “Society”: 12+ (I kind of lost count)

Coming soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
-12/21/11: Sint (2011) aka SaintChristmas Edition!
-12/28/11: The Shaft (2001) aka Down
-1/4/12: The Carrier (1988)
-1/11/12: Beasties (1991)

The orgy of shunting

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comments are closed
  1. December 25th, 2011 | 11:23 am | #1

    Actually campy and a lot of fun ! Viewers may wish to check out a new video short “The GraveDiggers – Hang Em High ” on youtube; equally campy.

  2. Gorsian
    April 1st, 2012 | 6:24 pm | #2

    Yes Because they are Demons ( parasite aliens or slugs ) Shape Shifted into fake human forms

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