The Damned (1969)

Much has been said about Luchino Visconti’s The Damned, which explored the fall of a wealthy industrialist coinciding with the rise of fascism. It tells a tale of moral decline, degeneracy, political opportunism, and eventual ruin. Although it never fails to challenge you in terms of the subject matter (some of which would have been controversial in 1969), I find that it tends to meander about the place with its two-and-a-half-hour runtime, and it’s not always easy to stay interested, however I would recommend at least trying, because what it does offer is an allegory of the twisted lust for power, and the ruination it may bring.

The film’s plot centres around the Essenbecks, a wealthy industrialist family in Germany that apparently survived the Great War and the last economic depression, but after the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, the family’s fortune and prestige comes under threat. On the night of the Reichstag fire the family’s patriarch, Baron Joachim von Essenbeck (who despised Hitler), is murdered with a gun belonging to the family firm’s vice president Herbert Thalmann, forcing Herbert to flee. The family fortune falls into the hands of a relative in the SA named Constantin, with an amoral pervert named Martin waiting in the wings, scheming to take power for himself and advance himself through the echelons of the Nazi Party.

I won’t try to mince words. The film itself is a very long and often trying film, and a tad too dismal for those who don’t have the patience for it. There is a sequence of events that is laid out rather incoherently. That being said, there is much historical territory that could have been explored in the film, but this is squandered by the mere fact that it focuses solely on the perspective of a disintegrating family, and only in the period spanning 1933 and 1934. Not that there was no dramatic potential. In fact, many scenes serve the point of the film, such as Visconti’s re-enactment of the Night of the Long Knives.

The acting is sometimes a bit hammy, but it is certainly good in terms of performance. Many critics have cited Helmut Berger’s performance as Martin von Essenbeck as one of the high points of the film, and I can arguably agree. He gives Martin the creepy personality that such a character deserves, and in a way, he is basically a personification of how the most extreme ills persist in totalitarian societies. He is the fall of a nation in one sick, twisted man, stealing the central role in a film about the fall of industrial titans.

The film’s style is very much extravagant, in a subtle sort of way. It makes use of lavish sets and costumes, presumably to heighten the sense of moral rot within the society. There’s also something to be said about the way the characters are dressed, a reflection of aristocratic prestige that’s weathered the ages but is slowly being eroded. Though the film itself disappointingly tends to meander on for quite a bit, it is a fairly well-executed drama, one that might age well after repeated viewings.

  • Score: 69%
  • Grade: C

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Nowadays very few Hollywood films get me going to the theatre anymore, chiefly because the cinema now more than ever is an outdated institution of public life, and I’m surprised that the Internet hasn’t killed it off yet. Last week, however, offered something different. From the director of The Fifth Element came the promise of an exciting new sci-fi adventure that I think was hoping to rival Star Wars in terms of scope and success. But nothing is perfect I suppose. While the film certainly has its flaws, however, I think it’s a good film with decent ideas, and if nothing else is good summer entertainment. But let’s get right down to it.

The plot of the film is set in the 28th century, largely in the Alpha space station, the film’s eponymous city of a thousand planets, where people of different species from different planets live together. The protagonists are two government agents – Valerian and Laureline – who are given the task of investigating a mysterious force lurking within part of the space station, from which people have never returned, leading the government to assume it is toxic. But all is not as it seems, and when the two agents venture further towards the area, they realise that something else is going on.

The first half of the story showed perhaps the most promise. Aside from the prologue, you had Valerian going on this wild dimension hopping mission where anything can happen and it was fun. In fact, the fast-paced action oriented parts of the film are the best part. The second half of the film, however, is rather formulaic in terms of its writing, and when you get to the big reveal (which is almost a given nowadays), it sort of dawns on me that the big twist reads like something written by Noam Chomsky. It’s not terrible, but aren’t we sick of the bad guys always being some repetitive comment on Western foreign policy? I know Hollywood is full of Marxists but give me a break.

Valerian himself was a decent protagonist. Sure, he acted a bit like a high school jock, but when it counts, he acts like a real hero. For his faults (and those of the writers) he’s a good example of what a male protagonist should look like. Laureline isn’t too bad a character, but my main problem is that the producers and writers tried too hard to make her into such a badass action heroine that she might outshine Valerian for no reason other than to appease pretentious “culture critics”. The rest of the cast gave some good performances, particularly Clive Owen’s character.

For me the worst character is Rihanna’s shapeshifting character Bubble. It seemed like a gimmicky way of getting Rihanna into the film for cheap promotion, never mind that the generation of kids who thought Rihanna was cool probably pirated her music when she was big. Even worse is that it’s another attempt to politicise the film by writing Rihanna’s character as an illegal immigrant. In times such as these it makes to come to the conclusion that it’s a naked attempt at dogwhistling open borders politics in a market that again, is oversaturated with leftist politics.

If nothing else, the film looks amazing. Valerian sports some of the finest production values I’ve seen in a contemporary film. I know it’s common for sci-fi films to have a big special effects budget, but this film just takes this to incredible heights. I think that’s what made the film so ridiculously expensive to make though. The film costed €190 million to make, and thus far it has yet to turn a profit, which unfortunately means that this ambitious sci-fi flick could end its run as a box office flop.

On the whole, however, Valerian is a good film that in the end is hindered by Luc Besson and the producers’ desperate attempts to make it hip. It obviously didn’t work, which I guess is sad because it’s a good film with good ideas, but in this day and age what tends to happen with good films is that they get crushed under the weight of the producers’ overextravagant tendency. Vanity thy name is Luc Besson.

  • Score: 72%
  • Grade: C

Billy Jack (1971)

Now Billy Jack is a rather interesting film, certainly an object of its time in terms of production and its general attitude. Made by Tom Laughlin at the tail end of the hippie era, Billy Jack seems to have been positioned as a countercultural action film, complete with the progressive values of the hippie movement which apparently Mr. Laughlin has to repeatedly shove down our throats at various points in the film. That said it’s not a bad film, in fact I’d say it was a fairly good action film. But I think the problem is that, not only was it a bit too long, but also that it got too bogged down in its own message, even as it runs counter to said message frequently.

The eponymous Billy Jack is a half-breed Navajo Indian, who is also a former Green Beret and a veteran of the then-ongoing Vietnam War who happens to be a master of hapkido martial arts. In the film, he keeps watch of Jean Roberts’ Freedom School, a progressive art school in Southwest America for runaway kids of all races. He defends the Native American kids from the prejudicial bullying of the townspeople, and after an incident in an ice cream parlour in which some Native American kids have flour poured on them, he goes berserk and has the authorities coming after him and the school.

My main problem is that the film is about ten or fifteen minutes too long and suffers from some awkward pacing. Another problem is how ham-fisted the message tends to be. If you’re like me and you’re not a progressive, you probably won’t like the film’s progressive politics, and one thing I noticed is that the hippies in the film always argue from emotion rather than logic, quite like the so-called progressives of today. You could call it strawmanning if you like, but then the film strawmans the “conservative” characters a lot.

In this film’s world, all conservatives are evil, jack-booted bigots and all progressives are righteous hippies just want to sing and dance. Never mind the fact that the film’s message of peace and love is contradicted by the amount of violence committed by the protagonist, which only seems to prove that the only way to truly enforce justice with a gun, and in a film where the main character seems to be for gun control.

As for characters, the acting isn’t too bad, but it’s rather weak. Tom Laughlin is actually not a bad action hero in the film, and better at that than he is a writer or director, but he’s no Clint Eastwood, and he’s desperately trying to be a Clint Eastwood style anti-hero and failing. That said, even if he’s not a great actor, he’s a pretty good fighter, and at certain parts of the film, he’s very good. The rest of the cast is less tolerable though, particularly the hippies.

On the whole, Billy Jack is a dated relic of its time. Not an unwatchable one though, it looks and sounds like a decent film. But it’s main flaw is that it can’t stop getting caught up in its own politicking, and given that it was made by a progressive, this is no surprise. Just as now, they are always concerned with putting politics into everything, and regardless of the message, it doesn’t exactly lead to a good film.

  • Score: 64%
  • Grade: C

Soylent Green (1973)

Films like Soylent Green tend to be interesting due to their out-there central premises, and this film seems to be a blend of detective mystery, dystopian sci-fi, and social commentary that’s characteristically of its time, this being the time when environmentalism starting becoming fashionable. I suppose it was only natural that we would see a film that grapples with overpopulation, and the film itself is something of a product of its time. That being said, it was certainly an interesting and entertaining film.

Set in the year 2022, some fifty years into the future, the film depicts an overpopulated, polluted world where natural resources are all but exhausted, and the climate has apparently become so warm that many animals can’t survive. Most food in this world is provided by the Soylent Corporation, which creates nutritious wafers that it claims are made from plankton. The story focuses on the life of NYPD detective Frank Thorn, who along with his partner Solomon is tasked with investigating the murder of Soylent board member William R. Simonson, who was allegedly also burglarised before his death. During the investigation, Frank finds that there are powerful men, including the governor, who want to end the investigation even if they have to kill him, and he eventually stumbles upon the company’s terrible secret.

Right off the bat I felt like there was some sort of environmentalist vibe coming from the film, which I guess was pretty much in vouge at the time. I don’t really mind that though. My real criticism is that the film is a bit slowly paced for a film of about 97 minutes in length. The film seems to meander on for a while without much happening, but when we get back on the case, all seems to be well and good. It seems to be one of those films that slowly gets better as it progresses until we reach the conclusion, which I think was a solid ending, even if it was cut a bit short.

The acting is quite good, and to be fair, there wasn’t really a bad performer in the entire film, although this is another one of those films where the characters have the misfortune of being outshone by a big lead, in this case Charlton Heston. That said, Edward G. Robinson gives a good performance as Heston’s crusty old sidekick, in what is sadly his last film. I do find it disappointing that we don’t have much exposition on the characters, but I can generally tolerate it here.

Even though I criticised the film earlier for its somewhat slow pacing, I can’t help but think that perhaps the point of it was to enhance the feeling of suspense. The film’s overall style was rather subtle, yet there was no real attempt to hide the film’s gloomy outlook. There were a lot of nice-looking set pieces, but sometimes I wonder if they were really necessarily. I don’t have a problem with them, it could simply be a way of fleshing out the futuristic world of the film.

On the whole it was certainly a good film, not without its flaws but still an interesting and intelligent sci-fi from back when sci-fi was smart.

  • Score: 70%
  • Grade: C

Sorcerer (1977)

For whatever reason I found myself interested in a 40-year-old thriller called Sorcerer, which turned out to be a remake of a European 1950’s thriller called The Wages of Fear. Whatever you want to call it, the film came out at perhaps an awkward time. It was released just a month after Star Wars came out, and became an instant phenomenon, and when that happened, films like this were left twisting in the wind, and thus Sorcerer, which was produced on twice the budget of Star Wars, failed to turn a profit, and was generally dismissed by critics. That’s a bit of a shame because it’s actually quite a good film. Not as good as I might have hoped, but still a good film.

The film’s story revolves around four men, each from different parts of the world, who are invariably forced to flee from their previous lives, assuming fake identities of course. They all end up meeting each other in the remote South American village of Porvenir, where they live in abject poverty and earn meagre wages. After a local oil well explodes, the men are hired by an American oil company to transport cargoes of nitroglycerin to the oil well using two trucks. If successful, they will be handsomely, but it’s a highly dangerous job and it’s likely that they might die.

With that in mind, why is the film called “Sorcerer”? Well, apparently one of the two trucks in the film is called “Sorcerer”, which I guess is a somewhat logical if silly reason to call the film Sorcerer. The other explanation comes from the film’s director William Friedkin, who links the title to one of the themes of the film. In his words, “the sorcerer is an evil wizard, and in this case the evil wizard is fate”. That’s quite a stretch, but it’s not uncommon for directors to have pretentious ways of rationalising batty artistic decisions. Friedkin isn’t the worst in that regard.

As for the story itself, the concept is actually quite good. It’s main focus is taking people of different backgrounds who hate each other, but not as much as having to work with them, keeping in mind that if they didn’t co-operate, they would surely die. This kind of story is guaranteed to have some drama and suspense. I also like how the film’s prologue shows you how the main characters got from where they were to where they are now.

That being said, my main issue is with the film’s rather slow pacing. Parts of the film end up being rather boring, but certainly not at the very end, and it does have some surprisingly explosive moments to keep you on your toes. The acting is very good, thanks to the casting of skilled actors such as Roy Scheider. With this film you can really get a sense of their emotions, and while no character is completely likeable, it’s not hard to come to the conclusion that that’s pretty much the point. The film certainly succeeds in terms of its pessimistic atmosphere and its style. The film boasts a crisp look and sound, and benefits from skilful editing and tastefully professional shooting. Another highlight would be the film’s musical score, which comes courtesy of Tangerine Dream.

On the whole it was certainly an ambitious film, and quite a good one. In fact, William Friedkin wanted this film to be his legacy, but in a way he sort of had it, given that the film now enjoys cult film status. Ultimately the film’s chances of success were hindered mainly by the fact that it was 1977. If you didn’t go to see Star Wars, you went to see Smokey and the Bandit. Both were huge films that effectively murdered Friedkin’s Sorcerer in the box office, and there’s something symbolic about that. Star Wars and Smokey and the Bandit symbolised the newly emerging blockbuster era, while Sorcerer was emblematic of the New Hollywood style of film-making. After 1977, the New Hollywood era would decline until its eventual demise in 1980, and the art of cinema would be the poorer for it. In a way, Sorcerer was the sacrifice on the altar of blockbuster cinema. Or perhaps I read into this sort of thing too much.

  • Score: 74%
  • Grade: C

Space is the Place (1974)

The 1970’s had some crazy films back in the day, so it’s no wonder why I’ve been focusing on films from that time all month, because I love 70’s cinema. Before the age of blockbuster cinema, you had films that were unburdened by committee thinking, works of pure artistic passion. This was the zeitgeist that fed the creation of some truly unique films. That said, not all 70’s films were created equal, and some films are rather jarring. Space is the Place is one of them, with a wildly surreal concept but somewhat lacklustre execution.

The film casts the famous jazz musician Sun Ra as a Pharaonic space-age jester/guru/philosopher, with his band the Arkestra following him around. Presumed lost for many years, he arrives in Oakland, California and spreads the word of his plans to take black people with him to outer space. Meanwhile, he duels with a mystical pimp named the Overseer with the future of the black race at stake.

All I can say is, well that was bizarre, though it did some thought process behind it, though I’d say that gets even weirder. Apparently the concept came from Sun Ra’s time as a lecturer in the University of California, Berkeley. He taught a course there called “The Black Man in the Cosmos” in 1971, and his lectures became the basis of the premise behind the film. At least we can confirm that bizarre courses have been a staple in universities for a while. The film itself is based in Afrofuturism, a cultural movement that melds sci-fi and fantasy with black-oriented social commentary, typically of the left-wing, social justice variety, and the rest of the film is surreal psychedelia.

My main problem with the film is that it sort of got carried away in its concept, and got itself mired in pacing and confusion. The plot itself seems like it could have been the plot of a short film, but there are musical interludes between parts of the film. The musical interludes aren’t bad, but they disrupt the flow of the film, along with butchering the narrative, which appears to be based in Afrocentric identitarianism.

The acting isn’t bad, and I think one of the film’s biggest strengths was the ability of Sun Ra to give himself presence in the film, albeit by making himself look godlike to the point of ridiculousness. The other characters aren’t bad, and the guy playing the Overseer does a fine job, but the rest of the cast tends to fall into the background, especially whenever Sun Ra shows up.

At the very least the film succeeds in the realm of style. The pharaonic aesthetic looks great on Sun Ra, and a number of the set pieces channel the style to good effect. The music played by Sun Ra’s band is also quite trippy, so even if the musical interludes do cut into the film’s narrative, the music itself compliments the film’s crazy atmosphere. All in all, it’s a fascinating film. Mediocre but certainly fascinating as a product of its time. Though more than anything else, it was basically an art project for Sun Ra, though its fans will undoubtedly remember it as a quintessential example of Afrofuturism.

  • Score: 63%
  • Grade: C

Logan’s Run (1976)

Before the advent of Star Wars, sci-fi films were not the explosive action-oriented films of today. Many of them were serious, but often far-out forays into such concepts as the futile pursuit of utopia, and the prevalence . They were also much slower in pace, and had a generally colder atmosphere. Sometimes this approach worked, but other times it came across as rather pedantic. On that note, this film is plagued by some of the more pretentious clichés of early 70’s sci-fi. This film could and perhaps should have been a sci-fi classic, and in some circles it is, but it clearly squandered its potential with a lumbering narrative that assumes that the viewer already knows what’s going on.

The film’s plot is set in the year 2274, in a dystopian future where the apparent remnants of humanity live in a domed metropolis run by a supercomputer, and nobody is allowed to live past thirty years of age. Everyone who turns 30 must go through a ritual called “Carousel”, in which they are vapourised and supposedly “renewed”. Those who refuse and try to flee are called “runners” and hunted down by elite policemen called “Sandmen”. The story at large focuses on one sandman named Logan, who meets a woman named Jessica and is sent on a mission in which he is forced to become a runner, and while doing so he discovers the terrible secret of the world he was raised in.

In theory, the central premise was quite promising, if only the film gave more of an explanation of what happened before all that came about. The way I see it, Logan’s Run was a pretty deep film, with its story ruminating on the dangers of putting so much of our faith in technology that everything is centrally managed by a supercomputer. It also explored the exaltation of libertinism, and presents a world that has caved into wanton sexual abandon to the point that the entire society is structured around facilitating a purely hedonistic society. Of course it had potential, but the narrative was simply underwhelming, and the film spends about a quarter of its two-hour runtime lumbering about.

The film’s general stylistic approach seems odd to me. In the first half it was better, with stunning futuristic visuals and cool electronic soundtrack, but in the second half, all of a sudden the film’s tone shifts to that of a more typical adventure film, complete with a cliché orchestral score. It is rather disappointing, considering that the producers had set up a futuristic setting, and yet they aren’t consistent in that approach. That perhaps may have been one of the film’s biggest weaknesses – a lack of a cohesive identity.

As for the characters, the performances don’t do much for me at all. The acting seems rather unconvincing, and it makes the characters seem quite silly, but then again, the whole film starts as a cold sci-fi film and then turns into a silly matinee feature. It may have interesting ideas, but they aren’t handled properly. Of course, it is still an interesting film, and it’s not totally bad, though there are more than a few things that desperately needed to be cleared up if the producers wanted us to take the film’s ideas seriously.

  • Score: 65%
  • Grade: C

It Happened Here (1964)

Now this film is a rather interesting specimen. Conceived by two teenagers in the middle of the 1950’s, the central vision was an alternate history of England that depicts a scenario in which Nazi Germany invaded and successfully occupied the United Kingdom, and some Britons collaborate with their Nazi occupiers. Not only that, but the film itself would be presented as if it the events depicted had really happened. Dismissed in the time of its release, I think it was an interesting project. Not necessarily a great film but I certainly felt that it had its own merits as an unconventional pseudo-historical drama.

The film itself is set in around 1944-45, shortly after England had become occupied. Britain is apparently governed by Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists (though Mosley himself is never seen or depicted in the film), and the Americans have begun bombing the southwest coast, and providing aid to a new resistance movement in Britain. Meanwhile, an Irish nurse named Pauline is forcibly evacuated from her village to the demilitarised city of London, where she reluctantly collaborates with a regime as part of a paramilitary medical corps. The story progresses, however, she learns the true impact of Nazi occupation, and she finds that she is unable to back.

I found the premise to be rather interesting not only because it presents a version of history wherein the Nazi’s took over Britain, but also because of the idea that ordinary Britons were collaborating with them. It also plays with the idea of fascism as a disease of the mind, and that it can spring up anywhere in the minds of ordinary people, and that under the right circumstances it can flourish. Indeed, the film’s creators researched this while writing the film itself, and I believe they took inspiration from the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands for the scenario itself.

While the narrative might have been based on historical study and good research, it’s not really that exciting as a film. For starters, the characters aren’t really that engaging. I guess that has more to do with the older style of acting, but most of the time I don’t find myself engaged with the characters. I found myself more interested in the ways in which the characters in the film justified collaborating with the Nazis, which are scattered throughout the film. If anything, there are quite a few scenes in the film that more or less resemble Nazi propaganda films, and I think that was part of the idea.

Secondly, the audio is pretty bad, but the film’s style as a whole is incredibly realistic. The whole film was deliberately shot in black and white on 16mm film so as to give it a newsreel sort of feel in order to make it look like a piece of history, as opposed to speculative fiction. The level accuracy the film-makers aspired to is quite stunning, though it still often feels like an amateur production because of the deliberately low-quality visuals and audio.

It was as engaging a film as I was hoping it would be, but it is still a very thought-provoking film, with its exploration of the spread of totalitarian ideology in the hearts and minds of ordinary people. The ending may well have been a bit forced and inconclusive, but in spite of its weaknesses, I would say it’s a slightly above-average experiment in pseudo-documentary film-making.

  • Score: 67%
  • Grade: C

Demons (1985)

Demons have been a fairly frequent subject in horror films, and they’re always depicted in roughly the same way, as interchangeable horror monsters but with notably more intelligence than zombies. This film isn’t too different in that regard. In fact, at times it tends to resemble a zombie film. That being said, however, it is better than the vast amount of demon-related horror films out there, and I should give it credit for being the first demon-related horror film I’ve seen that’s actually passable as a horror movie for once, and is much better than that in terms of its execution.

Set in Berlin, the film sees a university student named Cheryl, along with her friend and several other people being handed tickets from a mysterious masked man to the screening of a new film at a recently refurbished cinema. One of the attendants wears a mysterious mask that leaves her with a cut on her face after she takes it off. They watch a film that features a mask like the one they saw in the foyer, and depicts events eerily similar to what would eventually happen in the film. Sure enough, the scratched woman eventually turns into an undead, bloodthirsty demon that can infect the living into one of them. The rest are trapped and killed off and infected one by one, and the survivors are left in the unfortunate position of surviving long enough to find their way out.

The story isn’t bad. In fact, it benefits from a suspense heavy approach. My main problem with the story is the lack of explanations given. The masked man never talks in the whole film, and thus there’s no way of ascertaining why he went through the trouble of trapping a bunch of random people in a movie theatre, so you’re left to use your imagination. Also, there are a few scenes featuring four other characters that don’t become part of the main plot until later, and these scenes are put between the rest of the story, which sort of disrupts the flow.

The characters aren’t the most important thing about the film, though the acting isn’t exactly the best, at least with regards to the English dub. Don’t get me wrong, the acting could be better, but it’s not the terrible kind of cheesy. The thing that really annoys me is that the characters tend to be completely stupid, sometimes ignoring common sense. This seems to be a running trope in horror films, and sadly this film is no different.

But that’s alright. After all, the film is certainly well presented, with an atmospheric music score that sets the right tone throughout the film in the style of its time (along with a range of selected songs from various recording artists). Also, the film sports commendably visceral special effects, and it’s great that the producers opted for practical effects instead of computer generated effects. Most obviously, the film is one of those gore horror films, so if you’re not a fan of incredibly violent horror films, this probably isn’t for you. I’m usually not jolted by most horror films, but evidently most of the other horror films weren’t that good at horror.

All in all, it’s not the greatest of all horror films, but I would put it into the category of the more well-done horror films, and you simply don’t get this kind horror film anymore. Most of today’s modern shock horror films are completely fake, and we all know it. The old Italian horror films, meanwhile, are in a totally different league.

  • Score: 74%
  • Grade: C

Society (1989)

I came across a rather interesting horror flick about a year ago, one in which the premise was that the wealthy overclass literally feasted on the people below them, and I was fascinated by that idea. What other movie took the idea of class conflict and transmogrified it into a surreal, SFX-laden horror film? Alas, though the film’s ideas were solid, it’s not as spellbinding as I had hoped it would be, but it certainly wasn’t boring.

The film’s plot revolves around Bill Whitney, a high school student who’s practically got it made. He has a wealthy family in Beverly Hills, California, a girlfriend in the cheerleading squad, a Jeep Wrangler, and is likely to become class president. And yet, despite this enormous position of privilege, he is unhappy and feels out of place. His sister and parents mingle with upper class socialites, and even his girlfriend is more interested in going to parties than in his pressing concerns.

His worst fears are confirmed when his sister’s ex-boyfriend David Blanchard gives him a tape which seems to reveal his family participating in an incestuous orgy, but when tries to show the tape to his therapist, it appears to have been altered, and Blanchard turns up dead. Each second he keeps digging puts his life at risk, until eventually all is revealed to him at a formal party, and it’s not a pretty sight.

The story itself is a twisted jab at the outward soullessness of the upper class, old money types that still haunt the real world, though it’s worth noting that the film doesn’t necessarily take itself seriously, or at least not constantly. In fact, more times than not it’s a comedy of sorts. The real horror builds up until the end of the film, where the rich socialites turn out to be creatures that melt into alien creatures and suck the nutrients out of them. I might have liked for the film to go in a darker direction, but on the other hand, it’s a decent enough deconstruction of the then-popular 80’s teen flicks that were about as prevalent as Aqua Net. If you want to see a by-the-numbers teen flick being twisted, dismembered and then hung out to dry, this is probably the film for you.

My main problem is with the pacing. For a horror film, there’s an awful lot of time in which barely anything happens, though I think this is probably supposed to add to the sense of paranoia that the film relies on in. It’s a good idea, though the acting is pretty bad, and cheesy to the point of it being comical. This isn’t a rare phenomenon in horror films, particularly ones that rely on visceral SFX-driven thrills, but here I can’t help but think that it ran the risk of somehow undermining the whole message of the film by rendering the characters as stock caricatures.

The film certainly has the spirit of the opulent 80’s, complete with the synth score, but for me, the real highlight of the film is the special effects provided by Screaming Mad George, which greatly added to the bizarre nature of the film. I also like how the writers took advantage of the seemingly elastic effects to deliver a satisfying conclusion.

On the whole, it’s not as great as it perhaps could have been, but it’s not without its merits. It may have been a B-movie, but it had a kind of satirical commentary hidden beneath the layers of cheese. It’s not really for everyone, and if you’re the kind of viewer who isn’t into surrealistic gore or sadistic horror (though there isn’t much of it here), you probably won’t like it. But for the hardier cult film viewer, Society is a film for you.

  • Score: 66%
  • Grade: C