If you are in for a messed up movie, this is a good choice.
Spoilers and ones that actually might matter.
Billy is a high schooler (played in true Hollywood style by a 28-year-old), who has always had trouble fitting in. He has this feeling that there’s something dangerous lurking just behind the facades people around him show. The authority figures around him just keep shooting down his attempts at finding out or bringing to the public any sort of truth that he might have evidence for. Of course, this could be just paranoid schizophrenic behavior, but sinece this is a movie, we know there’s something behind all this. And it turns out that Billy was adopted into a family of weird creatures, who talk about themselves as the Society as they control the world of humans and have weird orgies, which you might have seen pictures of even if you don’t know it.
This is the kind of movie where you can choose your own style of horror. There’s body horror with the Society, there’s the horror of being in high school and there’s the horror of not being able to trust who the people around you are. While nobody gives a shit about the high school aspects (of this movie), the two others are quite interesting.
The body horror is gruesome even if it is late-80s practical effects. Of course, liberal use of slime helps here immensely. In the orgy scene at the end of the movie. It’s just everywhere and obviously we have an instinctive negative reaction to it. The squelching noises (as they are described in the hard-of-hearing subtitles) give the whole thing an extra level of tactileness. It affects even me, who can usually eat anything while watching pretty much any movie.
The ability of not being able to trust anyone is of course much more interesting. The two aspects of body horror and this can be seen as linked, but we’ll get to that. Billy’s parents have him around just to toy with him. Billy has a weird feeling about his family and also feels that his sister gets preference, but Billy’s life is still pretty good until it’s decided that he is to be consumed by the Society in one of their orgies. It’s not only about hiding things from you, it’s about setting you up for failure. The rich in our real society want just enough people to succeed that it keeps the hope alive for the rest, so that people will keep in line. In Society, even this avenue is not available, as those on top just eat from the rest literally.
Besides his family, Billy is surrounded by the Society. The high school bully he has altercations with is also a member, as is Billy’s therapist, the cop who keeps hassling him and pretty much everyone at the hospital. The Society probably has different levels of hierarchy of it’s own, but they do tend to be in positions of authority over humans.
The rich might seem alien to us. Think about the name Elon Musk and Grimes gave to their child. Is that something humans do? No wonder those weird lizard man conspiracy theories are still strong (although I guess it’s mostly a joke at this point or at least I hope so). This movie just takes that extra step from They Live!. These beings aren’t just trying to control humanity to extract wealth, they are using humans in their perverted games. This is also rings very true to me. There are people, who get their kicks from pushing around people, who are powerless. This wasn’t as widely reported in the late 80s as it’s now, but think Harvey Weinstein* forcing actresses watch him shower. Why? Because he can… or could. These aliens are very much like this.
* Is this allegedly? I guess not at this point.
In a way this is a prescient film. Sure, these things were very much going on back then, but there just wasn’t a #metoo movement to make these practices as public as they are now. So, one would hope for a revival of this movie, but it also is a clear 80s movie with all the baggage those come with.
One last note: Billy was played by Billy Warlock, whose later career was largely in various day time soap operas. While I’ve never seen any of them, it did bring me a bit of joy thinking about how these soaps might become more enjoyable, if you imagine they are somehow related to this movie.