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Review: Shivers (1975)

AKA They Came From Within / 87 Min. / Directed by David Cronenberg / Lionsgate Vestron Video Blu-Ray

A scientist who creates a parasite meant to be “a combination of aphrodisiac/venereal disease that will hopefully turn the world into one beautifu mindless orgy” accidentally infests a remote luxury apartment complex in the debut mainstream film from body horror expert David Cronenberg, who even in his novice phase as director is still able to create twisted visions of sex and violence which both enthrall and disgust his audience.

Starliner Towers has all the modern amenities it’s clientele could dream for – tennis courts; an olympic swimming pool; and even it’s own medical facility where Dr. St. Luc (Paul Hampton) is noticing unusual parasitic growths in many of the Tower’s residents. It seems that St Luc’s former medical instructor Emil Hobbs (Fred Doederlein) has been experimenting with a human parasite to unleash the hidden urges and desires of modern man. Unfortunately for Hobbs the parasites cause uncontrollable impulses in theirs hosts and, in one night of strange debauchery, St. Luc along with a nurse (Lynn Lowry) and Hobb’s old colleague Dr. Linsky (Joe Silver) must fight to keep the parasites under control before they can escape the apartments and infect the world.

Originally titled Orgy of the Blood Parasites then later released in a cut version in the US as They Came From Within, Shivers was Cronenberg’s third feature film after the experimental epics Stereo and Crimes of the Future. Even though Shivers is considered Cronberg’s first “normal” movie, it’s not really normal at all by late seventies drive-in horror movie standards. As the parasite menace rages throughout Starliner, Cronenberg is able to indulge in all kinds of strange tableaus of perversity. Cronenberg doesn’t play these scenes of weird debauchery for exploitation – to slightly misquote one of Cronenberg’s characters from a later film, “It has a philosophy, and that is what makes it dangerous.” David Cronenberg doesn’t just want you to feel vicarious pleasure or freak you out; he’s slipping in all kinds of weird ideas about modern society and culture that linger in your mind long after movie has ended. The world of Shivers is an orderly world of the upper-class in highest of modern luxury who are rendered mindless animals to suit the biological needs of a parasite which needs hosts to replicate and flourish. “Sex is the invention of a very clever venereal disease” reads a strange note stuck to a wall in the back of Dr. Linsky’s office. This note takes on sinister undertones as the movie continues on toward its turbulent climax.

Previously released as an early DVD back in 1998 by Image Entertainment with it’s only substantial extra being an interview with Cronenberg, Shivers was re-released years later by Arrow video in a special edition Blu-Ray. Now Lionsgate’s Vestron Video label has reissued the film in a stunning new Blu-Ray featuring loads of new exclusive extras produced by Michael Felsher’s Red Shirt Pictures.

First off are two brand-new audio commentary tracks by David Cronenberg and co-producer Don Carmody. Both tracks are moderated by Fangoria’s Chris Alexander and are full of interesting technical details, though Cronenberg’s is probably the most informative. This is first commentary track of one of his older films that he’s recorded in some time and it’s great to listen to Cronenberg as he walks down memory lane and discusses his early frustrations and growth as a filmmaker on what was his first big project after his history in underground films.

Along with original 1998 Cronenberg interview there are updated interviews with Cronenberg, Lynn Lowry and special effects makeup artist Joe Blasco who discusses the only reason he took the low-budget project on (to do Barbara’s Steele’s makeup) and the primitive approaches he took to create the parasite creatures which included puppeteering the bugs using coat hangers. Rounding out the package are theatrical and tv trailers, radio spots and a still gallery with an audio interview from the late producer John Dunning.

More Blu-Ray Screenshots (NSFW)

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