Triskaidekafiles

Triskaidekafiles is a love letter to cheesy cinema from the 80s and 90s, with the occasional dip into other eras.  if you're a fan of MST3K, Elvira, Joe Bob Briggs, or just bad horror movies in general, Trisk is the place for you.

Society (1989)

SOCIETY

WRITER: Woody Keith and Rick Fry

DIRECTOR: Brian Yuzna

STARRING: Billy Warlock as Bill Whitney
    Devin Devasquez as Clarisa
    Evan Richards as Milo
    Ben Meyerson as Ferguson
    Charles Lucia as Jim
    Connie Danese as Nan
    Patrice Jennings as Jenny
    Ben Slack as Dr. Cleveland
    Tim Bartell as Blanchard
    Brian Bremer as Petrie

QUICK CUT: A deep look at the dangers the lower class pose to the better people of society.

THE MORGUE

    Bill - Our hero, a member of the upper crust, but chooses to pursue sports and more physical pursuits than refining his tastes.

    Clarisa - A love interest of Bill's, a member of society, and one of the most desirable women in his school.

    Milo - Bill's best friend, a prankster, and looked down upon by the rest of the Whitney family.

    Jenny - Bill's sister, and far more integrated into the finer things in life and the ways of society.

    Dr. Cleveland - A psychiatrist Bill frequents to work through his issues, and one of the few people he feels like he can confide in.

    Petrie - Bill's rival for student body president, and his opposite number.  Smart, not overly charismatic or 'cool'.

    Ferguson - Another of Bill's rivals, and in the more physical way, as opposed to Petrie's nerdiness.

 Me, I blame society.

Me, I blame society.

THE GUTS: Greetings my fellow Triskelions, I welcome you to a most grand occasion and celebration.  One that only the most esteemed and important people have been invited to; my in depth look at Brian Yuzna's Society.  Allow me to take your coats, enjoy the horse do-overs, and get ready for the main event.

The proceedings for tonight's adventure get underway with our erstwhile hero Bill having quite a bit of a little sleepwalking waking nightmare problem.  The paranoia is palpable and conveyed quite adeptly through the cinematography, as you are placed inside Bill's head and see things from his perspective at times, and the lens swims around the settings.

But of course, none of it is real.  Poor Bill Whitney is naught but jumping at shadows..  It is an important dream, to be sure, as it gives you an insight into young master Bill's mental state, as his paranoia is a presence that runs throughout the film with varying levels of accuracy.

These events segue quite naturally into his visit with a psychiatrist the next day.  That is what all the fashionable Californians do when they are a little troubled.  This serves to continue to establish his mental state, and his belief that something is coming, that there is something lurking under the surface of what most folks call reality.

  Maggots , Michael. You're eating  maggots . How do they taste?

Maggots, Michael. You're eating maggots. How do they taste?

Some time later, Bill and his friend Milo are playing some basketball, when they notice the boyfriend of Bill's sister has arrived.  Unfortunately for Blanchard, he has become persona non grata around the Whitney mansion, and he must be removed.

Jenny begins to get ready for her coming out party, and discovers her former lover and current interloper lurking in her closet.  He does his best to try and explain to her why he is there, but he is most uncouth about it.  Bill arrives just in time and removes the ruffian from the premises.

After he observes some strangeness with his sister, we watch young master Bill in a debate as he runs for student body president, against the typical more nerdly type that a jock such as Bill should trounce quite handily.

 How do you do, fellow kids?

How do you do, fellow kids?

With another visit to Dr. Cleveland, we learn of Bill's concerns that his parents treat him differently than Jenny, and how he doesn't fit in with his family and society, even going so far as to surmise that he's adopted.  The short answer is yes, he is indeed.

Later still, he heads into the bathroom to retrieve some suntan lotion, and happens upon his sister in the shower, where he makes a most startling discovery indeed; his sister appears to be not quite put together correctly.

Is it a trick of the light?  An optical illusion brought on by the glass shower door?  Or is it Bill's budding psychosis?  Yes!

 Next time people complain that women in comics can't make those butt and boob poses, I will show them this and prove them wrong!

Next time people complain that women in comics can't make those butt and boob poses, I will show them this and prove them wrong!

After a brief encounter at the beach with the sunscreen looking far too much like a money shot from a porno, Bill runs into Blanchard again.  He plays for Billbo a recording he acquired by bugging Jenny's earrings.  The recordings are strange, disturbing, and incestuous at best.

Unfortunately, Mr. Whitney discovers the bug, and Bill trusts his psychiatrist with the tapes.  Which, I must warn you that I am about to spoil some forthcoming events for you, Cleveland is in on everything.  So Blanchard is indeed not long for this world.

Also, when he returns to see Cleveland the next day, and he plays the tape back to Bill, it is now a completely changed recording, and far more mundane than it once was.

 Bil gets a little head.

Bil gets a little head.

Billy makes a valiant attempt to acquire another copy of the recordings from Blanchard, but when he travels to the rendezvous, he finds Blanchard has been in a most unfortunate accident, fatally dying, closing out the end of act one on a serious note, and setting things up for the plot to continue onwards.

That night, Bill is invited to a gala being thrown by one Tim Ferguson, the most important party of the week.  While there, he encounters the alluring Clarisa.

After an brief scuffle with Ferguson, which leads to him being thrown out of the party, Bill departs with the new girl, they partake of sexual congress, and things get a bit weird, as the young lady's parts do not seem to be where they are all supposed to be.

 Body by Escher.

Body by Escher.

We also meet Clarisa's mother, and she is most strange indeed, good readers.  The quickest way to illustrate this point is that she greets Billy by coughing up a literal hairball, and her vocabulary is limited to the most basic of grunts.

Most frustratingly, she is never explained.  She remains as just one of many oddities amongst the proceedings of this picture.

The next day, Bill confronts his parents after another in a long running series of pranks has befallen him, and discovers them, and Jenny, in various states of undress and being far more friendly than most families probably should be.

 Remember kids, do not poke the corpses.

Remember kids, do not poke the corpses.

At Blanchard's funeral, Bill encounters his presidential rival Martin, and the young man tells Billiam they need to meet and he will reveal everything that's going on.

Of course, as has become the way of young master Bill, whereupon his arrival unto clandestine meetings, he discovers his informant is once again quite deceased.

He rushes off and informs the local constabulary, but once they return to the crime scene, they discover an entirely different car, and no dead bodies anywhere to be seen.

The next day at the latest debate, Bill announces to the entire student body that he found Petrie's body, and his adversary is demised.  Which is quite the time for Petrie to walk into the debate, hale and hearty as ever.  What a ruse!

To be fair, this revelation is no hidden private e-mail server, but it has just as surely tanked Bill's bid for presidency of the student body.

Bill is rightly losing it, as everyone seems against him, but his friend Milo arrives and tells him he saw everything in the woods that night.   At least Bill is reassured he is not losing his mind.

He heads home to confront his family, and that goes swimmingly.  Am ambulance shows up, they drug Billy, and drive him off into the night.

 One of us, one of us!

One of us, one of us!

Milo follows them to the hospital, and is told Bill is in the morgue.  But he locates his associate in a room, safe enough for now.  Bill wakes up, and discovers his Jeep outside, so he heads back home.  Despite Milo's certainty that this is all a ploy by someone.

Which oh, dear readers, makes no sense whatsoever.  This feels more like padding and a plot cul de sac than anything else.  He leaves the house, is taken to the hospital, only to return, which is where they wanted him in the first place?  At best, I can see it as a test, to see if he is worthy of their time and effort, but that feels like a stretch.

If there was some plot to discredit him, why fake his death, and bring his Jeep to the hospital?  What was their goals?  If they wanted him dead, why not just kill Bill volume one?  If they wanted him back at the house, why not just throw him in the basement until they wanted him for whatever the endgame is?

 CAP: Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go say hey to Michael Meyers, and then see if I can get a job as a lifeguard.

CAP: Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go say hey to Michael Meyers, and then see if I can get a job as a lifeguard.

There is such a great line here though, "Paranoid?  Paranoid??  All my fears are real!"  It's such a great take of the classic 'it's not paranoia if they really are out to get you.'

So Bill recruits Clarisa and Milo to go see what is going on at the Whitney party palace, and there is a really fun scene where Bill stalks through the house, and it mirrors his sleepwalkig from the opening scene.  You know how fond I am of bookends.

Once his parents arrive though, they capture Bill and things get...gooey.  And they stay gooey for almost the rest of the movie, save for a few scenes.  I have a strong stomach, and even though there are a few sillier moments here and there, this stuff really gets to me, especially the first time I saw the movie.

 Oh, he's awfully small.  Should we throw him back?

Oh, he's awfully small.  Should we throw him back?

Because this is when we are introduced to the Shunt.  What is the Shunt?  I...I don't know.  The best I can describe it is some sort of orgy, but that is only scratching the surface.  These people are not really people.  What they are, I also do not know, good reader.

They appear to be a parallel species to humanity, that normally possess a human form, but during the Shunt, they can shift, merge, stretch, remold, and combine with whomever they are with.  Herbert West might actually express emotion if he saw the nightmares these things create from themselves.  This is the epitome of body horror, as more than two dozen people combine and form into this mass of writhing, gooey, indescribable conglomeration of flesh.

At once, this is both the movie's shining moments, where it puts the upper class as literally another species, and the movie's greatest failing.  It never quite sells this other group of society, their laws, their ways.  Which almost works, as we regular folk just can't understand the ways of the rich, but at the same time, it is very frustrating and can come across as a half-baked idea.

There are some wonderful allegorical ideas here, to be sure.  It just never quite gels together as a whole, unlike the mass of Society.

 Did I ever tell you how I got these scars?

Did I ever tell you how I got these scars?

At this point, the movie spends a lot of time showing off the fleshy, Akira-like monster, and Bill's repeated attempts to escape, and fight the various members of society.  Lots of fun gooey body horror, but ultimately it's a long collection of confrontations building towards a conclusion.

The highlight of the night must be when Bill finally fights Ferguson, and literally turns him inside out.  Oh, and yes, Clarisa is one of them, but I guess she's good, because she's helping Bill.  And this still doesn't explain her grunty ogre of a mother.  I guess she Shinted when she should have Shunted.

It is truly inspired genius, the mix and match bits and pieces.  Again, like Re-Animator, it would do Modulok proud and make him jealous.

 CAP: It's my good friend Mrs. McGreg!  With a leg for an arm, and an arm for a leg!

CAP: It's my good friend Mrs. McGreg!  With a leg for an arm, and an arm for a leg!

Look, I could break down every disturbing yet awesome bit of body horror, but I am not going to delve into such things.  I have a life, and it's better to see this for yourselves, good readers.

I do appreciate that we do at least get the big mystery revealed of What is Going On, even though the Society could be further developed more.  Also, with defeating Ferguson, there is at least some level of victory Bill can claim before an abrupt ending.

Although, they should have set up their rivalry better, instead of the few scenes we got.  It would have been more natural to have the final fight be between Bill and Petrie, since they were far more rivals during the story.  Or, combine Petrie and Ferguson's characters, making Ferguson the opponent in the presidential race.  Still, a victory is a victory, and with that and escaping to fight another day, I guess that's an ending?

If anything, that's what bothers me, this is a 90 minute pilot for a series, more than a movie unto itself.  This would be a great first episode, setting up the ongoing fight of Billy and his friends, against Society.

 CAP: HEY has anyone seen my spleen?  I think I left it in Susan!

CAP: HEY has anyone seen my spleen?  I think I left it in Susan!

AUTOPSY REPORT

Video: Arrow Video continues to impress with a great looking transfer.  Never before has anything so gooey looked so good.

Audio: And as expected, the audio is solid too.

Sound Bite: "Some people make the rules, and some people follow the rules."  The plot summed up.

Body Count: Well, there sure are a lot of bodies, just not a lot of dead ones...

1 - Half an hour in, and act one ends with Blanchard's death.
2 - Petrie is found dead in his car...OR IS HE?
3 - Blanchard ACTUALLY dies when he is consumed in the Shunt.
4 - Ferguson gets turned inside out, and I guess he could come back from that...

Best Corpse: Ferguson might be the only corpse.

Blood Type - B+: Light on the actual blood, but MAJOR points for all the makeup effects from Screaming Mad George.

Sex Appeal: Frequent nudity, and not always where you expect the parts to be!

Drink Up! every time Bill is pranked.

Video Nasties: A short clip of the fight with Ferguson, where he gets inverted.  Great effects, and a bit of the movie's silliness.

Movie Review: If not for the unexplained antagonists, this would be a rocking film.  But too much fuzzy motivations, and an underdeveloped idea bring it down.  But only slightly.  The filmmaking is great, the effects are top notch, and the allegory makes this a movie with something to say.  It stands right up there with Carpenter's They Live on that score..  Four out of five back boobs.

Entertainment Value: The Shunt alone is worth the price of admission.  It is just bizarre from start to finish.  There's some great moments of camp mixed in with the silliness, and if anything is at fault, I wished it had more camp to it to offset the strangeness.  Four out of five gallons of KY Jelly.