Frightfest: The Darkside of Society (2023)

Director: Larry Wade Carrell

Running Time: 72 Minutes

The directorial debut of Brian Yuzna, 1989's Society offered a scathing look at classism through imaginative sequences brought alive courtesy of Screaming Mad George's jaw-dropping practical effects.  The project began life as a screenplay by Rick Fry and Woody Keith, which is where director Larry Wade Carrell begins his documentary about Keith - who has since changed his name to Zeph E. Daniel.

Narrated by the late Julian Sands, much of the set up comes from talking head interviews about the film's journey to the big screen. A picture is painted of a horror movie which had to get creative to bypass censors, avoiding gore through memorable instances including the shunting, a final-act sequence inspired by Salvador Dali paintings. This surreal tale of a class divide created a sensation in Europe, although had a longer journey to its American release.

What is then put forward is that the screenplay was a way for Daniel to exorcise his past trauma, allegedly based on truth about the satanic ritual abuse he and his brother experienced. It is worth mentioning that such allegations relating to the satanic panic era have been denounced which, considering that movement is intertwined with Daniel's recollections, leaves a big portion of this documentary on shaky foundations.

Bafflingly included within the many interview subjects is Richard Stanley, whose appearance claiming to be a victim of child abuse is overshadowed by the avoidance of the abuse allegations which surfaced against the filmmaker. To avoid the subject entirely does not feel like balanced reporting, although much could be said about what this documentary presents. Daniel's past has undoubtedly affected him, and this work feels tragically exploitative of the man who believes he was brainwashed. Despite being presented as an expose of autobiographical truths, the final work instead resembles a barrage of conspiracy theories loosely connected to an exceptional '80s film.

The Darkside of Society made its World Premiere at Frightfest 2023