Shivers Gave me Shivers- And Not the Good Kind!
Guest Review By Leigh Wood
I’d seen the 1975 creepy crawly Shivers chopped up on television some time ago and came away mostly indifferent. However, after a recent uncut cable viewing, I had a change of heart. Director David Cronenberg’s stylized mix of sex and horror really gave me the creeps!
When a kinky doctor conducts experiments on parasites for medical transplants at Starliner Island Apartments outside
, things quickly go awry. Nicholas Tudor (Allan Kolman) and his wife Janine (Susan Petrie) have marital troubles-until the aphrodisiac-like parasites take over and spread as a venereal disease. Neighbor Betts (Barbara Steele) also succumbs to the worm-like parasites, as do numerous residents in the complex. Young and old, English or French-only facility Doctor Roger St. Luc (Paul Hampton) and Nurse Forsythe (Lynn Lowry) resist the sexual and bodily takeover. Will these parasites consume all on the island and beyond? Montreal
Shivers begins with a wonderfully sardonic commercial for the Starliner Apartments and rushes into chaotic, sexual deaths and impromptu surgery. Helmsman and writer Cronenberg (The Fly, Eastern Promises) plays upon our need for safe luxuries while already setting forth the slow, deliberate horror to come. His parasites might be purely instinctual-needing to sexually spread to survive. But the careful onscreen progression also lends to a frightful consciousness at work. The outcome of Shivers is never really in question. It’s simply a matter of time before these squishy creatures succeed.
Though Barbara Steele (The Pit and the Pendulum, Dark Shadows: The Revival) seems to be the most major player here, her role is rather small. Nevertheless, her bathroom moment is one of the highlights of the picture! Everyone looks and behaves a little seventies, naturally, but they also have that great everybody’s low budget horror feeling. Allan Kolman (JAG) and Susan Petrie (Toby) are great as the disjointed couple who add a little more spice to their marriage then they bargained for. A dated portrayal perhaps, but still relatable. Likewise, Paul Hampton (
5) looks and acts the good doctor, our hero. We want him to succeed-even though the odds are strongly against him. Joe Silver (Ryan’s Hope) as fellow doctor Rollo Linksy serves as the informative, but short-lived elder statesmen, and we know pretty and sexy nurse Lynn Lowry (The Crazies, Score) will succumb to our penis shaped parasites soon enough. Babylon
Instead of a gothic old house or serious visual monsters, Shivers presents a wonderfully mod, bright, seventies amenities apartment complex for its sexual gore. Yes, it’s dated in its looks and styles, yet Shivers also looks damn good. Maybe it’s because the seventies came back in décor and fashion, or maybe Shivers isn’t as low budget and bad orange shag as Three’s Company. The apartments look good- if a little European or Ikea- and most of the ladies’ fashions are hot and wearable today. Of course, Cronenberg also serves up a few horror staples, too-including classic cars, basement laundry and boiler rooms, and a very sexy, scary swimming pool.
You might have noticed I’ve referred to sexy and scares several times in relation to Shivers. Well, it’s certainly a sexy film if you want to see some seventies boobies and panties and old school, bumping and grinding make-outs. There’s an audience for all that of course, but the sexual nature of Shivers is also frightening in many ways. Most of our modern slasher pictures deal with nudity, sex, and horror; but Cronenberg preys upon the sexual acts itself. In the opening murder, we have an old man doctor and a teenager in a school uniform. It’s violent, rapacious, and pedophile predatory action. The parasites enter and exit its hosts and victims in bizarre, sexual ways. We’re terrified by the real life prospects of rape and assault, but we delight in the horror screams and squirms. I’m not squeamish one bit, yet Shivers had me shying away more than once. It’s not an easy thing to do, but Shivers gets the balance of sex and scares right. Take note modern dumb soft-core slasher remakes!
At only and hour and half, modern desensitized audiences can certainly make room for Shivers-and maybe viewers might find themselves truly shocked and unnerved. Rated R of course, for all the sex, bloody parasite trails, and naked girls-this one isn’t for kids, prudes, or non-horror and kinky fans. Unfortunately, it looks like the uncut DVD version of Shivers is out of print. It seems to air on television enough, but netlfix currently offers the ‘saved’ option only. It figures! For once there’s a scary, sexy horror film that makes me squirm, and some pathetic direct to video cheapie has to come first! Keep your legs crossed and your eyes open for a Shivers airing this Halloween.