Shivers (David Cronenberg / Canada, 1975):
(They Came From Within; The Parasite Murders)

Canada the "island paradise" is a high-rise apartment complex where antiseptic amenities are extolled in a slideshow narrated by HAL from 2001; elsewhere, a rumble between an aged scientist and a nymph in schoolgirl garb culminates in abdominal-gutting and throat-slashing. David Cronenberg at work. The image is "a combination of aphrodisiac and venereal disease," a slug-turd-cock experimental parasite poking from inside the belly of a moody humanoid (Allan Kolman) until it's puked from a veranda onto an old lady's plastic parasol in the garden below. Paul Hampton is the soap-operatic lead, although Cronenberg's eye wanders to the infected building dwellers experiencing their own fusions of Eros and Thanatos -- the frog-faced, "hungry for love" cleaning lady who lunges at the delivery boy, Barbara Steele as the bohemian lesbo who receives the monster between her legs before passing it on to her tremulous neighbor (Susan Petrie) via wet kiss. Robin Wood filed it under "reactionary," yet the pervasive, vampiristic horniness is less oppressive than subversive, the revolt of subconscious impulses against the body housing them, just as the complex comes to suggest a corporeal system spinning out of control. Everything becomes sexualized: Standard horror-flick exposition is projected onto a mini-movie of Lynn Lowry doffing off her nurse whites, "disease is the love of two alien kinds of creature," submerged urges erupt in visions worthy of Sweet Movie and SalÚ. Are we ready for transformation? "We like parties, but this is ridiculous!" Change is fraught with both dread and allure, and in a way this is Cronenberg's Bob & Ted & Carol & Alice, only fearlessly stretched all the way to the orgy -- as the hero's slow-mo baptism/group-grope segues into contaminated carloads filing out into the night toward Montreal, the baleful elation of revolution makes it unmistakably a happy ending. With Joe Silver, and Ronald Mlodzik.

--- Fernando F. Croce

Back to Reviews
Back Home