“Why not breed a parasite that can do something useful?”
When a researcher (Rollo Linsky) informs a doctor (Paul Hampton) that his insane colleague (Fred Doederlein) has implanted parasites in his young lover (Cathy Graham) and then killed her, Dr. St. Luc (Hampton) and his girlfriend (Lynn Lowry) begin an investigation, quickly finding that an increasing number of residents in their apartment complex — including a businessman (Alan Migicovsky) whose wife is friends with a lonely neighbor (Barbara Steele) — have become infected.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Barbara Steele Films
- David Cronenberg Films
- Horror Films
- Mad Doctors and Scientists
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary notes that this “first of David Cronenberg’s low-budget horror films to play in the United States” “quickly established his cult”. Shivers presents an “intriguing setting” — an “isolated, sterile apartment complex which is a planned, self-contained community” — wherein a parasite with “the power to drive its carrier violently insane” is travelling “on its own from apartment to apartment through the plumbing”, and can also “be transferred from its carrier through sexual contact.” He posits that the “film has some tension at the beginning when the initial people are infected”, noting that the creepiest moment comes “when the parasite crawls between unsuspecting Barbara Steele’s legs while she bathes” (ewww!), then transfers from her throat to her lover’s while kissing — but he argues that the “story, character development, and the film itself go out the window when almost everybody in the building” (except Hampton) “becomes infected and runs through the halls looking for people to attack.”
Peary writes that while this “exploitation picture is too violent and crude”, the “special effects (i.e., creatures moving beneath the skin) by Joe Blasco anticipated those that would appear in future big-budget SF and horror films” — like Alien (1979). Because the sub-genre of “sci fi body horror” films isn’t a personal favorite, it’s hard for me to comment on whether Cronenberg’s film goes off the rails or simply continues along its own perversely logical trajectory; I can say that things certainly build to a tense fever pitch by the end, leading to a sense of claustrophobia and despair.
As Richard Scheib of Moria writes, “Shivers is Night of the Living Dead construed as a satire on the 1970s swinger lifestyle” — a very apt analogy indeed.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Some effectively creepy moments on a low budget
No, though of course Cronenberg fans will be curious to check it out.