Blu-ray review: “Shivers” (1975)

Shivers (1975)


Running Time: 87 minutes

Written & Directed by: David Cronenberg

Featuring: Paul Hampton, Joe Silver, Lynn Lowry

Betts: “I loathe to eat alone. It makes me feel so fat and lonely.”

So much has been written about Cronenberg as well as his early movies that I don not have much to add other than this was his very first full length movie, he had been making shorts up to this point, which were all great – it was only a matter of time before he made the leap to a major motion picture. What a jump it was, “Shivers” was too far ahead of its time upon its initial release, looking back at it now it still feels transgressive with its overtly sexual horror – something many directors might be too timid to handle, but Cronenberg is one of those special people that can marshal a story and narrative bending it to his will, while making something still pretty shocking today. Make no mistake about this is a horror movie through and through – what I find telling about this debut is that it is a genre movie, looking at horror films made today especially debuts most seem relatively lame as well as actually extremely boring – wouldn’t it be a revelation to have a debut as refreshing and shocking as this?

“Shivers” concerns Dr. Emil Hobbes who is conducting experiments with parasites for use in transplants. He believes that humanity has become over-rational and lost contact with its flesh and its instincts, so the effects of the alien organism he actually develops is a combination of aphrodisiac and venereal disease.

Hobbes implants the parasites in his teen-aged mistress, who promiscuously spreads them throughout the ultra-modern apartment building where they live. Hobbes, unable to undo the damage he caused, kills his mistress and then commits suicide. One of Hobbes’ sexual partners begins to feel ill and returns from work. Here we see the parasite emerge from its host and escape into the building where it emerges and attacks a number of people.

This film is an excellent example of what Cronenberg was best at – using a process of transformation to reflect societal issues. The film feels very claustrophobic and the four walls in almost every scene best illustrate this. Even when we are shown the outside world it is behind a wall of glass so the residents can see escape but it is never realized. The residents are trapped in a world within a world – best seen these days in the recently released “High-Rise” (2015).

As an early work this is worth the watch and the iciness that is present throughout the film.

“Shivers” is out now on both DVD & Blu-ray.

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