Society (1989) Blu-Ray Review

society1Society (1989) Blu-Ray Review

Directed by Brian Yuzna

Starring – Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards

Runtime – 99 minutes

UK Release – Dual Format Blu-Ray & DVD from Arrow Films OUT NOW

Every teenager goes through the stage where they feel they do not quite fit in, but for Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) his suspicions about his idyllic high society family might well be right.

Beginning much like any run of the mill teen comedy, we are introduced to troubled teenager Billy visiting his psychiatrist, he voices his concerns about a possible conspiracy,his disassociation from his family and thoughts that he may well have been adopted. His psychiatrist attempts to put Bill’s mind at ease but his hallucinations and numerous on screen innuendos are just the first signs in a lesson that will really make you question his own sanity. When his sisters ex-boyfriend attempts to bring to his attention evidence of his family’s incestuous parties, Bill tries to seek help, first from his girlfriend who seems more interested in her own social status and then his psychiatrist who’s best advice is, “you have to learn to accept society’s rules of privacy. If you don’t follow the rules, Billy, bad things happen.” and then to top things off, Bill’s only ally is disposed of in a freak accident.

This is a fair warning that kicks Billy’s suspicions in to overdrive in this weird mix of John Waters style humour, Cronenberg-esque body horror visuals and an ending that is the pure definition of WTF!

society2Directed by the great Brian Yuzna in his first outing as director, Society is a very clever (if somewhat bizarre) take on the class system and how an individual can try to fit in but at the end of the day you are what you are and trying to be something you are not, never works out. Yuzna who is better known for producing the awesome From Beyond and Re-Animator and later went on to direct the re-Animator sequels sequels as well as a favourite of mine, Return of the Living Dead III, shows that he can bring to the screen a very unique vision competently.

This early outing as director allowed Yuzna to hit the floor running, this is a true mind fuck of a film and one that should grace the collection of any Body Horror fan. Sure it has some questionable acting but hey, this is the late 80’s Billy Warlock is one of the Baywatch alumni, there is an ex playboy bunny and the budget was extremely low for the time, needless to say, these folks were hired for looks not talent. But with that being said there is enough there to make the audience connect with Bill and share his paranoia, any normal film would have ended with the Rosemary’s Baby inspired revelation of conspiracy, but this is not a normal film.

The final reel will definitely be engraved in your memory for a long time to come.I cannot write about this film without bringing to your attention the mastermind behind the special effects, Screaming Mad George, who is this film is credited as ‘Surrealistic Makeup Designer’. I’m amazed at how nasty and disturbing the final sequence is and yet there is absolutely no blood, apparently this was one of Yuzna’s ways of getting around the rating system.

Screaming Mad George delivers some truly disgusting imagery that is sure to make anyone squirm, his previous work included Poltergeist II and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 and 4, a man who’s work on this film seems to be the combined offspring of Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste and David Cronenberg’s Videodrome. The Effects are pure genius, no surprise then that Screaming Mad George has been Yuzna’s go to FX guy ever since.

society3This is yet another great release from Arrow Films, again not sparing on the extras, the Blu-Ray features a collection of interviews with the director, principal cast, the FX crew, there is also a lengthy conversation with the director at the UK World Première, a Screaming Mad George music video as well as a trailer and audio commentary
‘The society that kills to keep it’s existence a secret’.

Society is a great film that is only let down by budget restraints. A classic that I still found disturbing, over twenty years since my last viewing.

7.5 out of 10

And as an extra shout to Arrow Films then please check out the stunning artwork and packaging for Society.

societydvd1 socirtydvd2 societydvd3

Amphibious (2010) DVD Review



Review by: Dave Wain

Stars: Verdi Solaiman, Mohammad Aditya, Steven Baray, Francis Bosco

Written by: San Fu Maltha, John Penney, Brian Yuzna, Somtow Sucharitkul

UK Certification: 15

UK RRP: £12.99

UK DVD Region: 2

Runtime: 83 minutes

Directed by: Brian Yuzna

UK Release Date: 5th May 2014

Distributor: Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment

Not being one for sweeping generalisations, but I’m going to take a stab at the fact that if you’re reading this then you’re into horror movies. If that’s the case then the name Brian Yuzna is one that you’ll be very familiar with. He’s a producer / director whose legacy has perhaps been a little forgotten in recent times despite an output from the mid-80s onwards that heralded some iconic and unforgettable movies. Just a glance at his resume flags up the genius of Re-Animator (1985), From Beyond (1986), Dolls (1987) and Society (1989). He shot the only sequel to Return of the Living Dead that is remotely worth seeing – Part III (1993), and a segment for the overlooked Lovecraft adaptation Necronomicon (also 1993). The 90s saw him as a legend in the home entertainment market with titles such as The Dentist (1996), Progeny (1998) and Faust (2000), but recent years have been less kind… which brings us to Amphibious.

AMPHIBIOUS 002After a short post-credits sequence that sees boyfriend and girlfriend Julie (Elke Salverda – thankfully her only acting credit to date) and Logan (Timo Ottevanger) being killed by an unseen sea creature (with some very decent make-up effects on Logan). The action then switches to Dr. Skylar Shane (Janna Fassaert), a marine biologist who is on a research mission to find some prehistoric fossils aboard a boat captained by the grumpy Jack Bowman (Michael Pare). Whilst on their expedition they run onto some smugglers posing as fisherman including the jovial Irishman Jimmy (Francis Magee).

As Jack sorts out some unfinished business with the leader of the smugglers Boss Harris (Francis Bosco), Skylar begins to chat to Tamal (Monica Sayangbati), an orphan sold into servitude on the fishing platform by her uncle. She takes pity on the girl after hearing her story and having lost a child herself decides to follow her instinct and try to help her any which way she can by informing the police when she gets to the mainland that the girl is being held on the fishing platform. The officer she speaks to takes little interest in what she has to say, but as the night wears on it soon becomes apparent that with Tamal’s knowledge of black magic she has the ability to look after herself just fine… and summon a very big fish.

If you compared the intelligent and lurid social commentary of Society against the hammy creature-feature nature of Amphibious there would be only one winner. However, I think it’s important to analyse films in comparison to their contemporaries, and for this film then that would be specifically the output of SyFy Channel and The Asylum. Against these poor CGI-laden duplicates Amphibious fares pretty damn well. The premise boasts a level of originality, the Indonesian setting gives the movie a different flavour and with the inclusion of some practical effects alongside CGI, the creature effects aren’t too shabby.

AMPHIBIOUS 003That said, some of the acting is pretty woeful – but that’s predominantly due to the casting of a multinational, multilingual cast all working in English. Everyone does their best and no-one phones it in, but some of the dialogue is particularly clunky and the occasional dubbing distracts a wee bit. I mentioned Yuzna’s CV at the start of the review, and it’s fair to say that if Grimmfest ever fancied laying on a Brian Yuzna retrospective I’m pretty sure Amphibious wouldn’t feature! In assessing the movie though, I have to ask myself the question “in the last few years, have I seen a better creature feature?” – staggeringly the answer is probably no.

5 out of 10


Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation (1990) A UKHS Xmas Horror Review

SNDN 4Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation (1990)
aka Bugs
aka Welcome to Hell

Directed by Brian Yuzna

Starring Neith Hunter, Maud Adams, Tommy Hinkley, Allyce Beasley and Clint Howard

A young woman falls to her death in flames from the rooftop of a downtown LA building, the apparent victim of spontaneous human combustion. Sensing her big break, aspiring journalist Kim (Hunter) begins investigating the strange case only to find herself at the centre of a freaky Christmas ritual conducted by a coven of man hating witches…
Completely jettisoning the Santa slasher angle of the previous three films in the wonderfully naff Silent Night, Deadly Night franchise, Initiation is an all together different beast. Whilst this and the superfluous and largely shoe horned in Christmas elements will likely infuriate die hards, lovers of the more psychotronic side of things will find much to savour in this utterly bizarre and kinky shocker.

Directed by the brilliant Brian Yuzna, the Re-Animator producer orchestrates the copious amounts of creepy crawlies, orgiastic violence and body morphing yucks with his typical in-your-face gusto. In fact it is for this reason alone that I’d wholeheartedly recommend Initiation, as saggy and at times nonsensical as its story may be. You see, for my money, Yuzna is the quintessential horror auteur, a berserk and unique talent somewhere between Ken Russell, HG Lewis and David’s Cronenberg and Lynch.

SNDN 4 2The second film in Yuzna’s triptych of early nineties sequels, Initiation serves as the centrepiece between his necro festishitic opuses Bride of Re-Animator and Return of the Living Dead 3, refining and reworking as it does the notions of perverse terror and extreme bodily transformation present in the both of them. Of course, it must be noted that the groundwork for all three films was certainly laid in Yuzna’s directorial debut Society, his 1989 cult hit with which Initiation shares more than a passing resemblance.

Like Society, Initiation is another Los Angeles county set tale of surrealism and paranoia. Both playing like potent blends of Un Chien Andalou and Rosemary’s Baby, both movies focus on a lone hero/lone heroine who just can’t convince those closest to them that there’s something very wrong beneath realities ‘normal’ veneer. Interestingly they also seem to be brother and sister films and near polar opposites, Society being male and Beverly Hills focused whilst Initiation is a female and less affluent area centric piece. Hell, Intiation even steals a few key members of Society’s cast and crew, most obviously barmy Japanese effects wizard Screaming Mad George who, once again, proves himself adept at physically realising some truly warped ideas.

Acting honours go to former Bond girl Maud Adams as Fima, the enigmatic (and little bit MILFY) head witch, and the ever delightful Clint Howard. The bubble headed B movie icon is perfectly suited to his deranged cult henchman role of Ricky, a character who may or may not be the same homicidal nut from parts two and three (which, in a pleasing moment of meta, plays in the background on a television in a nasty home invasion scene). A cute cameo from Phantasm’s Reggie Bannister aside (as a chain-smoking, sexist trash mag editor), the rest of the cast is perfectly serviceable but unremarkable, with lead Hunter veering dangerously close to being awful. At least she looks wonderful naked and covered in goo…

SNDN 4 2Though not for everyone and hardly the most festive of festive fright flicks, Initiation is a quirky and diverting little picture. A failure as a proper sequel it may be, it’s a must for old school straight to video enthusiasts, Yuzna fans and those who dig Halloween III type franchise riffs. Seek it out, either on the Lion’s Gate region one Silent Night, Deadly Night three pack (with three and five) or on the lovely 1996 big box UK VHS release from Guild where it’s titled “Bugs”. Be warned though it’s slightly cut.

Eight mutated carollers out of ten!


From Beyond (1986) BluRay Review


frombeyondFrom Beyond 1986

Dir. Stuart Gordon – Prod. Brian Yuzna  – 86 Minutes  – 18 Cert  –  Region 2

From Beyond is the 1986 release Directed by Stuart Gordon and Produced by Brian Yuzna. Based on the short story by H P Lovecraft it stars Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton who are re-united from Gordon’s previous film , another Lovecraft adaptation Re-Animator.

The story is that Dr Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel) , who is a sexual deviant and a genius is attempting to discover the secrets of the pineal gland (or third eye). He creates a resonator and opens a world of horror which initially kills him and leaves his student Crawford Tillinghast (Combs) incarcerated in a metal institution .

Dr Katherine McMichaels (Crampton) is a pioneering psychiatrist and decides to return Tillinghast to the scene of the experiment so she can study him as he re-creates the experiment. And then all hell breaks loose in a wonderful adaptation.

This is now being released in the UK courtesy of Second Sight Films in a wonderful BluRay presentation. The colours are stark and vivid and look really fresh here and wonderfully lavish.

But what makes this release so fantastic are the stunning extras featured here. It is chock full of interviews with Gordon , Crampton and Dennis Paoli (screenplay). Also full commentary from Gordon, Yuzna & Combs as well as a great FX piece and much more.


frombeyond2BONUS FEATURES:
Stuart Gordon on From Beyond
Gothic Adaptation – an interview with writer Dennis Paoli
The Doctor is in – an interview with Barbara Crampton
Monsters & Slime – the FX of From Beyond
Director’s perspective
The Editing Room – Lost and Found
Interview with composer
Commentary with Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna and Jeffrey Combs
Photo montage
Storyboard to film comparison

Includes English subtitles for hard of hearing.

A fantastic release and really if you have any interest in From Beyond then buy this and you will not be disappointed. Second Sight are putting many classic releases out this year and are definitely a company that are dedicated in putting out quality releases.

The BluRay is released on February 25th from all good stockists.

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