Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Shivers (1975)


David Cronenberg is one of those directors that really seems to polarize viewers His early work can be especially disturbing to folks, especially something like Videodrome. But I really do like what I’ve seen from him. He’s one of those directors who plays with particular themes, has a specific style and tone. So I was interested in seeing his first feature length film and get an idea of how it all started.


The film begins with an advertisement a grand new block of luxury apartments with everything a tenant needs right inside the building. Since these apartments are on an island, it is an added convenience for the residents to never have to travel to the mainland for anything. There is even a clinic on hand to help with any issues you may have. Dr. Roger St. Luc (Paul Hampton) is running into a few problems today. He’s seen several patients with strange growths in their abdomens.

But when his mentor Dr. Hobbes (Fred Doederlein) is found dead over the mutilated corpse of a young woman he becomes really disturbed. Some digging reveals that Hobbes and his colleague Linsky (Joe Silver) were working with parasites as an alternative to organ transplant. Hobbes decided to experiment on human… and it all went downhill from there. St. Luc becomes convinced that the parasites are multiplying in the apartments and warping the minds of the residents. Does he have any hope of stopping the infection, or will he fall prey to it? Horror favorite Barbara Steele is on hands to add to the Shivers.

Good Points:

  • Creates a disturbing concept and runs with it.
  • Has some excellent moments of dread and unease
  • Takes straight aim at the free love concept

Bad Points:

  • Never quite feels as claustrophobic as it wants to be
  • A few moments are more funny than scary
  • Feels a bit exploitative and trashy at times


Cronenberg’s main concept and themes are ready and raring to go in this film. The concepts of parasites spreading among the population of the apartment building, is creepy enough. But to have them spread like some venereal disease and increase the libido of the host makes it even more disturbing. There’s plenty of gross out moments in the film. But there are a few limitations because of the budget. The setting doesn’t feel as closed off as it could, and sometimes the parasite attacks looks silly. But overall there is enough here to get under your skin and see that Cronenberg was a talent to be watched, even in a movie as exploitative as this one.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 3
Acting: 3
Script: 3
Music: 2
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 3
Total:  3

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.

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  1. I don't think I've seen this since the 1970s. Thanks (I think) for the reminder. Cronenberg is not for the squeamish, prudish, or easily offended. But he does often somehow capture something. I suggest a peek at "Crash" (1996) based on the JG Ballard book. Characters find erotic satisfaction in car crashes, and one recreates famous crashes, such as those of James Dean and of Jayne Mansfield, as performance art.

    1. Yeah I need to see that one. I remember the huge stink that one caused back in the day. People were timid about renting it. I had a couple people complain about it, but most knew what they were getting into.

  2. I enjoy early Cronenberg. I think more polarizing is his newer films at least for me, and I think that's because he's departed from his horror work. I've seen A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, both of which I've enjoyed to some degree. But with A Dangerous Method, Maps to the Stars, and Cosmopolis, which I've had both on my Netflix queue from time to time, just never got around to watching them.

    It's funny how my mood influences what I want to watch and how it shifts. Right now I don't care much for superhero fare either on the big or little screen. I find it too frivolous. I'm pretty sure that'll shift from time to time as well. But yeah, Shivers, pretty good film for the time, and it's aged pretty well.

    1. Yeah his more recent stuff still has his chilly style to it, but the subject matter is a bit tamer than his older material. I like his weirder stuff personally. "History of Violence" was a very good film, no doubt. But it does seem like a strange fit in his overall filmography.