Film / Society

Society is a 1989 Body Horror film and the directorial debut of Re-Animator producer Brian Yuzna.

Bill Whitney is a popular teenager living in Beverly Hills, the only son of a wealthy upper class family. Despite his privileged position, he feels out of place in his family and life. Several strange circumstances lead him to suspect that his family and friends may not be what they seem, as Bill uncovers a conspiracy among the higher members of society.

This film provides examples of:

  • Ambiguous Gender: Mrs. Carlyn. The fact that it's hard to tell if she's played by a woman is a testament to Pamela Matheson's performance.
  • Black Comedy: "Well son, I guess you were right: I AM a butthead!" There are a few other jokes that pop up during the climax, with the resultant Mood Whiplash providing something of a relief from the otherwise horrific sights and sounds.
  • Body Horror: Bucketloads of it. The Society members can mutate their forms in anatomically impossible ways. The climax of the film features a murderous "orgy" where they merge into each other while consuming a hapless victim.
  • Boobs-and-Butt Pose: Justified Trope in that Jenny twists around in the shower to have both facing front. A literal Escher girl.
  • Brutal Honesty:
    Ted: You know the schedule; first, we dine. Then, I fucked your sister. Then, everybody else got so turned on, they fucked her too. As far as big ol' breath Blanchard goes; I ran that low-rent fool right into a pole. Pretty busy week, don't you think?
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Most peripheral characters seem very much "off" from the get-go, but Clarissa's mother Ms. Carlyn stands out in particular. She's a huge woman with an intimidating presence who never speaks, enjoys eating hair, and in the words of one reviewer, "seems to have wandered in from a John Waters movie that was shooting next door." Luckily, despite being a member of high society and implicitly having the same gruesome abilities as her daughter, Ms. Carlyn is totally harmless and benign, even helping to save the day at the end.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:
    • Good God, poor Dave Blanchard... his body is slowly and painfully absorbed by a mass of mutated people.
    • Ted Ferguson gets an equally nasty one, dying via a hand up his crotch that grabs him through the mouth and eye sockets like a bowling ball, and pulls him inside out. Unlike the above-mentioned victim, though, he had it coming.
  • Defector from Decadence: Clarissa has the same ability to "shunt" as the other Society members, but falls in love with Billy and never uses it to harm anyone.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The film isn't subtle about class warfare metaphors.
    Ted: Society has always fed on low-class shits like you!
  • Fan Disservice: Jenny is really adorable and quite attractive, but once you take her "contributions" to Society into account ...
  • Faux Affably Evil: Most of the Society members are nauseatingly polite.
  • Glasgow Grin: Bill's psychologist Dr. Cleveland sports one in the climax.
  • Human Aliens: Defied. When Bill calls the members of Society alien scum, they claim that they didn't come from outer space and that their Lovecraftian Superpower is simply the result of "impeccable breeding".
  • Ironic Echo: "Alien scum!"
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: One of Bill's classmates tries to warn him about the suspicious stuff going on behind closed doors, and arranges to meet him at a location late at night. Bill finds the guy's murdered body in the trunk of an abandoned car, but when he returns with the police the evidence has already been removed. Said classmate set it up himself, and he shows up unharmed the next day to fuck with Billy's mind even further.
  • Jerk Jock: Ferguson has the jock attitude down pat, and turns out to be one of the evil Society members.
  • Kill the Poor: In the climax, the upper class literally consume a member of the lower class by assimilating his body mass.
  • Killed Off for Real: Strongly implied with Ted. Despite their shunting ability, getting turned inside out is more than Society can stand. One members gasps, "He's congealing!"
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: David.
  • Literal Metaphor: Society loves this trope. "I've got to pull myself together!" says Judge Carter when reforming from a shunt.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower: The members of Society can distort and mutate their bodies to use as a weapon; growing elongated arms is one of the more mundane uses.
  • The Masquerade: Society, which claims that it's been around since the dawn of civilization. Turns out that the elites are actually ravenous, mutating, people-eating monsters.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Clarissa, who is introduced crossing her legs in front of Bill, letting him see her panties.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Billy's friend Milo jacks a Dirty Cop guarding the Whitney mansion and steals his jacket, hat and gun to sneak into the "shunting" party.
  • Nerves of Steel: Milo proves himself to be quite a badass in the climax and keeps a surprisingly cool head when he bursts in on the nightmarish scene at the end. He immediately reacts with wide-eyed horror when he first sees the twisted mass of pulsing bodies, but quickly regains his composure and waits for an opportunity to jump in and save his buddy. He is later seen slapping away a guest's hand in annoyance when it tries to meld into his face.
  • No Ending: Bill escapes with Clarissa and Milo after decking his "father", Ted is turned inside out, but Judge Carter merely quips that there's a new opening vacated by Ted's "death", and there's no evidence that Bill will ever be safe.
  • Overly Long Tongue: Ferguson at one point licks Bill with a massively oversized tongue.
  • Parental Incest: Bill is horrified to discover that his parents have been engaging in orgies with his sister. After he discovers that they're actually humanoid monsters who can distort their bodies, his sister('s face, protruding from both of their parents' torsos) even mockingly offers him to join in.
    "If you have any Oedipal fantasies you'd like to indulge in, Billy, now's the time!"
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: "The Blue Danube" during the Stunting Party.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music:
    When you’re tired of winning / When you get tired of fame / Or when your head is spinning / And you’ve drunk all the best champagne / Then we’ll all sing together / To society we’ll be true / Then we’ll all sing together / Society waits for you...
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Throughout the movie Bill keeps seeing horrific visions of people distorting their bodies in impossible ways, but a second later everything is back to normal. Subverted in the end when it turns out it was all real, leading to one of the most nauseating climaxes in the history of film.
  • Visual Pun: The poster takes the idea of "the mask you wear in public" to a Body Horror Literal Metaphor.