Society Blu-ray Review

The wild ’80s cult classic arrives in a fantastic limited edition package from Arrow Video

Society is one of the ’80s more gloriously demented films. Director Brian Yuzna (Bride of Re-Animator) crafted one of the decade’s most memorable cult classics in this twisted take on class warfare. From its highly disturbing ending punctuated with some of the most impressive physical make-up FX in cult history to its memorable cast of characters, Society is a huge blast of fun.

Society has a bit of everything in its rolling 99 minutes. Social satire, gross-out scenes that will haunt you long after the end credits roll, goofy but endearing characters, gratuitous nudity from Playboy Playmate Devin DeVasquez – there is so much to like about Society for genre fans.

Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock in a role he was born to play) should have an easy life. He comes from a wealthy Beverly Hills family and is the star athlete at his high school. His girlfriend makes him the envy of every man at Beverly Hills Academy. But something about his family bothers the down-to-Earth Bill, who does not feel comfortable in their social circle. His sister Jenny will soon have a coming-out party as an introduction to formal society. Everyone in Bill’s family is incredibly excited about it except him.

Bill starts feeling he’s not like the rest of his family. Bill’s suspicions are confirmed when Jenny’s ex-boyfriend plays an audiotape of Jenny planning an orgy for her party…with her parents and Billy’s rival, Ted Ferguson. It’s a bizarre reveal that gets Society moving in a completely unexpected direction. Along the way Bill meets Clarissa (Devin DeVasquez), the bad girl from school that seems to have a thing for him.

Playing with standard themes of teenage alienation and lack of parental understanding, Society turns them inside out. Most teenagers at some point think their parents are from a different planet. Society takes that idea and runs with it as Bill starts seeing things that shouldn’t be possible. He begins to believe he’s been adopted and that his parents treat his sister differently. Are his parents even human? Is the teenager having a breakdown or is something this bizarre really going on with his family? The tiny suburbs of Beverly Hills play a perfect setting for this odd story to unfold. Society beautifully incorporates the differences between the wealthy social circle of Bill’s family and regular people in a very smart script.

Society is an odd duck as a movie. The biting satire is nominally a horror film for its unforgettable climax of grotesque proportions, but has so much more to offer than fantastic make-up effects. Bill is the type of protagonist that populated many teen films of the era. He’s such a likable lead character that Society never misses a beat in its flowing social satire on the wealthy. It ends with one of the great movie punchlines of all time.  I’d love to recommend this film to everyone but its disturbing themes are probably a bit much for mainstream audiences. Society is a beloved cult film for a reason and remains an impressive, fun piece of outlandish cinema to this day.

Movie ★★★★☆

 

Soceity Blu-ray screen shot 3

In the waning days of the Blu-ray era, I am heartened to see quality distributors like Arrow Video continue to give their best with niche films such as Society. I have literally seen thousands of Blu-rays by this point, many of which received questionable or middling film transfers from poor elements. Arrow Video has given Society an absolutely perfect film transfer in pristine condition.

This is the best film transfer I have ever seen from the 1980s on Blu-ray. Forget Criterion, forget Sony, forget all other distributors and labels. Arrow Video has set a new standard with this 2K restoration. Approved by director Brian Yuzna himself, Society’s 1080P presentation is one of the most authentic film experiences ever issued on Blu-ray. The film has never looked better anywhere, including its theatrical release back in 1989. Presented in such vivid, crisp clarity, Society has a gorgeous film-like appearance that only a perfect, new scan of the negative could have achieved. It’s a truly remarkable 2K restoration from the original camera negative with perfect color timing and immaculate detail.

Society easily leaps on the short list of best catalog transfers available on the Blu-ray format and is a true delight for videophiles. One of Arrow Video’s first dual releases in both the UK and the USA, this is a superb presentation that demands a purchase at any cost.

Video ★★★★★

Society was recorded in Ultra Stereo, audio preserved here in perfect fidelity by a 2.0 PCM soundtrack. The film’s music was carefully chosen to play up the movie’s themes and is rendered in clean, expansive stereo. While the mix doesn’t have the chance for big action sound cues, the dynamic range and recording quality are superb. Channel separation is quite distinct and active, nicely balancing the score and intelligible dialogue.

Arrow Video provides optional English SDH subtitles in a white font.

Audio ★★★★☆

Someone at Arrow Video must love Society to give it this lavish treatment. The niche distributor loads up this limited collector’s edition with bonus features galore in a special Digipak packaging. The incredible set really has to be seen. Mere words don’t do justice to the fantastic design. It includes the film on both Blu-ray and DVD, limited to 3000 copies. The Blu-ray has been coded for all regions and is playable in both Regions A and B.

  • Brand new audio commentary by Brian Yuzna – The affable director goes over the film in this friendly chat with the help of a moderator.
  • Governor of Society (16:52 in HD) – A brand new interview with Yuzna that covers his history preceding Society and its genesis as a film. I found this interview almost more informative than Yuzna’s own commentary since it seemed more focused.
  • The Masters of the Hunt (22:22 in HD) – A brand new featurette including interviews with stars Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Ben Meyerson and Tim Bartell. The actors appear comfortable recalling their memories working on Society and how they get their parts. Billy Warlock discusses the sex scene he had with Devin DeVasquez.
  • The Champion of the Shunt (20:39 in HD) – New featurette with FX artists Screaming Mad George, David Grasso and Nick Benson. Society’s memorable creature FX are broken down and what work went into their creation.
  • 2014 Q&A with Brian Yuzna, recorded at Celluloid Screams Festival (38:34 in upscaled HD) – The director answers questions from an appreciative audience.
  • Brian Yuzna in conversation backstage at the 1989 Society world premiere (01:56 in upscaled HD)
  • ‘Persecution Mania’ (06:09 in SD) – Screaming Mad George’s very strange music video
  • Limited Edition Digipak packaging featuring newly-commissioned artwork by Nick Percival
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Alan Jones, illustrated with original archive stills and posters
  • Society: Party Animal [Limited Edition Exclusive] – the official comic sequel to Society, reproduced in its entirety in a perfect-bound book

Extras ★★★★★

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review as a screener that may not represent the retail disc. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.