Do you like horror movies? Not those big budget Hollywood screamers but the sort of films that fan enthusiasm and genre magazine attention help transform into a cult. No? Then move on. Society is most definitely not for you. This is a movie made by horror people for like-minded devotees of cinematic macabre with a thirst for the inventive and the morally challenging and the extreme. It's the sort of genre film we don't see enough of these days, one that delivers in spades as creepy mystery story, visceral body horror and political satire.
Society is the sort of film I automatically expect every horror fan to have seen, but this fails to take into account its years of limited availability on home video formats, and believe me it's not a film that gets prime-time TV screenings. Not so long ago a friend with whom I regularly exchange horror DVDs asked me if I'd ever heard of the film, the title having been mentioned with enthusiasm in an article she was reading. I loaned her my DVD and her reaction was telling. "Oh God," she said, laughing in that way you only do when you are borderline appalled, "that climax was disgusting! As soon as I'd finished watching it I had to go back and watch it again!"
Oh yes, the climax. There's much that could be written on this, and I'm sure I could produce a sizeable and convincing paper from a purely sociopolitical standpoint alone, but have no intention of doing so. This is a sequence that should be seen rather than read about, a sublime blend of body horror, perverse comedy and social commentary with prosthetic effects to get gooey over.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. The Anchor Bay US release of the film was one of the first DVDs we covered back in 2003, and watching the film again I see no reason to revise my views. Despite (or perhaps because of) the genre switch to slicker CG effects, it still delivers handsomely as a horror movie, while its political subtext remains as potent and relevant as it ever was. If you want to know what Society all about and just why many horror fans hold it in such high regard, you can read that review here.
This UK DVD release from Tartan is in fact a re-release under their budget Grindhouse banner, and not having caught the first edition I can't comment on their similarity or otherwise. Research suggests they are identical, save for a teaser for one of their more intriguing current releases.
At it's best this is a very impressive transfer that nicely showcases Rick Fichter's colour-rich cinematography. Contrast is on the nose, with the sharpness and vivid colour reproduction sometimes belying the film's low budget indie status. Some of the darker interiors fare slightly less well, with visible film grain and some shakier shadow detail, while occasionally there are some visible compression artefacts on areas of single colour (blue skies, red and grey walls). Otherwise the print is in sparkling shape.
The Dolby 2.0 stereo soundtrack is as clean as the picture and with a most pleasing dynamic range, with music in particular coming across well.
The only film-related extra is the original Theatrical Trailer (2:00). There are also three extracts from Tartan's about-to-be-released DVD of Phantom Carriage KTL Edition – they're only there to sell that disc, of course, but they worked for me.
A bare bones release of a cult horror favourite that looks great, sounds good and is only lacking in extras department. Tartan's original release coincided with a US one from Anchor Bay that had the same fine transfer but also boasted a damned good commentary from director Brian Yuzna. Sadly that disc is no longer available, so for now it's all Tartan's show. For the transfer and the film alone, that'll do nicely for now.