Shivers (1975)

Going MAD is just the beginning….

Writer:David Cronenberg
Director: David Cronenberg

Shivers (aka The Parasite Murders) is an early David Cronenberg film from 1975; which is probably all you really need to know.

The story revolves around a luxury apartment block where an experimental regenerative parasite has accidentally been released. Those it infects become violent, sex-crazed killers who spread the parasite to others.

There’s a bit of a zombie vibe going on, but overall it’s probably closer to Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (1956); the opening sequence advertising the apartment block suggests a degree of social commentary about decadence of the rich and respectable behind closed doors. Unfortunately a lot of this gets lost behind the shocks.

The film has all the features that we now associate with Cronenberg including strange characters and a level of sex & violence that was probably quite shocking in 1975. In particular there’s an early scene where a middle aged man appears to be attempting to sexually assault a young schoolgirl. We later discover that the ‘schoolgirl’ is actually 19 and he wasn’t trying to assault her but merely wanted to kill her.

Unfortunately this is still a 1975 movie shot on a relatively low budget – and it shows. The whole thing creeks loudly, everything from acting to special effects (the parasite looks like a crawling turd…). By today’s standards it just doesn’t make the cut and it’s difficult to recommend even taking into account its age.

So overall Shivers is an interesting watch as a piece of cinema history, Cronenberg experimenting with themes and styles that would later come to define his work. But it’s just so dated that unless you’re a real fan of the man and/or the genre it’ll probably be difficult to sit through it.