I had to watch the 1989 film Society because it has been mentioned so much by all the horror-loving boys and bears on Facebook and it’s one of few 80s horror flix we never had at the video store in which I worked back in the day. Since the movie is on a double feature disc with Spontaneous Combustion, why not cover that, too?
Society is a big old allegory under the guise of a teen horror flick. The message? Uppercrust society is comprised of a bunch of monsters that leech off the everyday dude. The film is about as subtle as Romero’s jab at consumerism in Dawn of the Dead.
So, in a classic late 80s practice of not being a slasher, Society has to rely on a “mystery” feel to keep it moving forward. There’s no real gore until the end, even though people die. We have this young heartthrob who borrowed Mitch Gaylord’s look from American Anthem. When we first meet him, he’s all sweaty in a tank top. I just love how cluelessly gay the 80s were.
Anyway, our Gaylord guy’s sister, mother, father, and pretty much everyone in his community are strange…sort of like snobby, upper class Stepford wives. He knows something is not normal about them. Everyone acts weird and those who help him get closer to the truth end up dying. But most awesome are the naked Ken dolls and blow up dolls he keeps finding in his car. Nope. Not kidding.
Another entertaining part that helps carry us to the end is when Gaylord guy appears in only tighty whities. And eventually, he learns the awful truth about his community at a high society party. This pretty straightforward teen horror flick, which didn’t have much going on, suddenly turns into one of those trippy WTF movies.
Gaylord guy learns a truth that is even more relevant now: “the rich suck off low class shit.” That’s the explanation as to what these ugly rich monsters are; they grow stretching suction mouths, attach themselves to their poor peon victims, and suck the life out of them in order to retain a place of superiority.
All the gruesomeness and gore is stored up for the final, never-ending scene of one unlucky dude being mouth-mauled. Yet the whole thing is over-the-top and goofy. Good lord—there’s a fisting scene! Seriously. At the last moment, this innocent teen horror film becomes a bad taste, dark humor slimefest!
SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION (1990)
Tobe Hooper’s…Firestarter? That’s kind of what this is, with a touch of Scanners thrown in for good measure. This young couple is part of some sort of atomic experiment. Then they have a baby. Then they mysteriously burst into flames….
The baby grows up to be Brad Dourif. Brad has a problem; he can’t control when he lights people on fire—including himself! Maybe he didn’t get enough redheaded doll hugs when he was a child. Meanwhile, he starts to learn the truth about his parents, his past, and the girl he loves.
It’s all filler about top secret experiments, conspiracies, being pursued by strange men, and all that jazz. There’s just nothing very exciting about Spontaneous Combustion. For a much better story about the same subject, with an awesome twist and plenty of sex, read my gay horror novel Combustion!
Anyway, back to the movie. So the highlight for me was when Brad meets with a woman played by Melinda Dillon—the awesome mother from Harry & the Hendersons, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and A Christmas Story! Love her.
In the end Brad lights on fire, gets all gnarly looking like some crazed monster, and there’s electric lightning bolts shooting all over. What do you want? It was the beginning of the shitty 90s horror movie phase.
Just read my book Combustion instead. Seriously.