Society (1989)

“Society” is probably the most literal indictment of the twisted nature of the modern North American aristocracy I’ve ever seen. Mind you, its core argument isn’t particularly layered or subversive: It’s a grand, sweeping, bitterly acerbic condemnation of the privilege afforded to the few with no qualifications required beyond social birthright, and it has the emotional nuance of, say, a “Goosebumps” or “Point Horror” novel. But that’s actually precisely what works so well here: Director Brian Yuzna is obviously delighting at the idea of showing what his version of acceptable society’s behaviours look like when literalized in the most monstrous, gruesome ways he can think of, and it’s that relentless need to spark a light of insight in its audience that makes the movie so effective. He hits the same theme over and over, and by the time the infamous climax rolls around, the audience is so on board with his forceful vision that the grotesque tableaux of monstrosities that usher in the climax feels the natural conclusion of the story. There are a lot of parallels that can drawn between the movie and various oppressed minority groups, both then and now, but the most obvious one for me is the connection to homophobia: Our lead here, Bill, is a white, all-American teenage boy with access to privilege through his wealthy parents but doesn’t feel ‘at home’ with them, and that sense of familial disconnect is but the first of many parallels throughout that underline that privilege is capriciously granted and jealously guarded. Ultimately “Society” shows that some genre directors are able to create profundity out of simplicity, and make impactful films that have more to say than even the most textured studio pictures.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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