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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Shivers (1975)

I spend a lot of my time here at the site reviewing new or obscure older movies. That is a conscious decision as I want to try and talk about stuff you guys have never heard of or seen before. It is way more fun for me and I hope is more useful for you readers. But every now and then I like to revisit and talk about an old favorite and Cronenberg’s Shivers is one of those movies. Please indulge me as I nerd out and if you haven’t seen this movie, you are in for a treat.

The movie opens with an advertisement for a high rise apartment building that sits on an island near the city. It has all the necessities for the community like a medical clinic and grocery store. Everything you need right at your fingertips without having to leave home. With that setting established we are treated to an older gentleman breaking down the door to an apartment and grabbing a young woman. After strangling her he tosses the body on the dining room table and does some impromptu autopsy action on her. After pouring something caustic into her chest cavity he slices his own throat with a scalpel. Now that is how you start a movie my friends!

Now onto the rest of the characters and story. We meet another resident of the building named Nicholas. He is having some issues with his stomach as he gets ready for work. On his way out he stops at the woman’s apartment and finds the bodies but instead of raising the alarm he goes to the office. We also meet his wife, Janine, when she goes to see her neighbor Betts (legit horror legend Barbara Steele!) to ask for some advice. She is concerned that he has been acting weird and Betts suggests talking to the facilities doctor. Here we meet Roger, the doctor, and his nurse/girlfriend Forsythe (the always awesome Lynn Lowry).

Dude has worm issues!
Lots of twisted stuff happens before we find out that man from earlier was experimenting on the woman. He wanted to create a parasite that would take the place of a failing organ creating a mutually beneficial situation. Instead, he created a monster that infected the host ramping up their sex drive to infect others. Yep, a sexually transmitted parasite that eats you from the inside out. No one and I mean no one does body horror better then David Cronenberg!

The story is interesting and unlike anything that I’ve seen before. The action kicks off right away with the door being broken down and the girl mutilated to stop the parasites. Then it quickly establishes the characters and lets us know what is going on. The cutting between the doctor’s investigation and the infection progressing in Nicholas lets us know exactly what is happening and what is likely to come for the characters newly infected. This tightrope is walked perfectly by writer director Cronenberg never lingering longer than necessary. It makes for an entertaining though disturbing watch.

On the subject of disturbing the body horror that comes with the idea of something physically infecting and hijacking a human being is itself twisted. But when you add in the sexual aspects of the infection it makes the movie even creepier. While it doesn’t get quite as in your face as the notorious characters in George Romero’s The Crazies (another Lynn Lowry flick) there is some nasty stuff hinted at in this movie. The father basically offering up his daughter was chilling without being too in your face. This is the kind of movie that explores ideas and horror that will get under your skin and make the audience uncomfortable in ways they maybe hadn’t expected. That is when director Cronenberg is at his best.

There isn’t a lot of what I’d consider gore in Shivers. There are some good gags with the worms coming out of the mouth but most everything is right off screen and implied. The most in your face effects work is the initial attack and suicide. I think that was a wise choice as it sets the tone for the movie and lets your imagination fill in the blanks of what you aren’t seeing. Most of the chills from this movie come from how it makes you feel and where your mind wanders instead of blood spraying in your face. I know that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it.

I think that I have made it very clear from the start that I dig this movie a lot. Just in case you weren’t already sure though I’m highly recommending you check it out. There is a newer release of this movie on Blu-Ray from Lionsgate that is filled with some cool extras and has a wonderful transfer. That is what I watched for this review and am glad to have finally upgraded my old VHS clamshell. It is worth the upgrade for sure.


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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