Society was the first ever legal 18-certificate film I saw at the cinema, on my 18th birthday in fact, April 14th 1990, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a midnight screening, so technically it started on the day after my birthday, but I went to watch it with my Dad – who passed away recently – and while I burst out laughing at a particular moment in the final scene, he was less enamoured with it. It wasn’t really his sort of film, however.
He passed away recently, but I can still remember seeing it in the cinema 25 years ago and, rewatching this film, for the first time since its 2002 DVD release, reminds me of just how much I love it.
It takes the idea that when you’re in your teens, the one doubt you might have from time to time is that there’s something going on and your insecurities make you wonder whether your parents are real, or are they some breed of robot, or something worse, or was that just me?
Well, it can’t be just me because high-school jock Bill Whitney (Baywatch‘s Billy Warlock) gets these fears, only they turn out to be perfectly realised and, courtesy of special effects from the appropriately-named Screaming Mad George, it turns out that the Society his family want Bill to join is the kind that has parties where everyone uses the ultimate lubricant that bonds their bodies together like plasticene (see the “Butthead” on the 2002 DVD front cover), which naturally scares Bill half to death.
Talking of death, when friends of his get a little too close to the truth, they’d better watch out, and in a world where he can’t trust anyone, you have to ask, just who the fuck is that mad woman walking around who Billy bumps into frequently? Well, it turns out to be the mother of his potential new beau, Clarissa Carlyn (Devin DeVasquez). Mrs Carlyn was played by Pamela Matheson, who gave a perfect and baffling turn – note, particularly, the scene where she coughs up hair (WTF?!), and it’s sad to learn that Ms Matheson died from heart failure in 1997, aged just 41.
I can’t think of anyone in the cast who has gone on to become a major star, which is a shame as they all give it their best shot, here, and Society is a wonderful example of how prosthetics ruled the horror film world before CGI took over, and when you’ve got a man in charge of make-up effects by the name of Screaming Mad George, you know that what you’re about to see will give you a whale of a time.
Oh, and why does Billy always wear a suit that’s at least two sizes too big for him??!
Go to page 2 for the presentation and the copious extras.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.