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Shivers (1975) | David Cronenberg’s high-rise horror makes for a hair-raising rediscovery on HD

Shivers (1975)

Being terrified is just the beginning!
The modernist Starliner Towers apartment complex on Nuns’ Island in Montreal becomes the perfect incubator when a medical professor, engaged in organ transplant research, genetically engineers a parasite that turns its human hosts into sex fiends.

As the escaped parasite crawls through the high-rise’s air ducts infecting the inhabitants (who are, at first, excited and enthralled by their new-found hedonism before turning into flesh-hungry zombies), resident doctor Roger St Luc (Paul Hampton) and Nurse Forsythe (Lynn Lowry) attempt to find a way to stop the epidemic from spreading beyond the walls.

Shivers (1975)

The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom…
Shivers (aka The Parasite Murders/They Came From Within) was Canadian writer/director David Cronenberg‘s debut full-length feature, his springboard to cult horror/sci-fi auteur status, and one of the controversial films to come out of Canada in the 1970s.

Drawing on his own fascinations, fixations and fears on the dangerous link between desire and disease, society as a colossal bureaucracy, and his country’s historical medical atrocities, Cronenberg created a ground-breaking sci-fi that remains both chilling and compelling, a fascinating, frightening new take on the old mad scientist character, and the film that set the blueprint for the director’s dark delving into body horror in his latter work, particularly Rabid, The Brood, and Scanners.

Shivers (1975)

Critics of the day wanted Cronenberg’s blood, calling it ‘an atrocity’ and ‘repulsive’ and a waste of taxpayers money; mainly because they could not get past Joe Blasco’s cheap, but effective special effects in which the ugly slug-like critters burrow into people’s bodies, give victims a full on face-hug or burst through stomachs (scenes which actually predate similar ones in Alien by four years).

Yes, it is raw and naïve (even Cronenberg admits that), but the film’s subversive themes (attacking the bourgeois existence for one) still unnerves 40 years on – while its nightmare scenario of an epidemic wiping out humanity remains a popular fixture in contemporary culture, from TV’s The Walking Dead to reality shows like I Survived a Zombie Apocalypse.

Watch out for 1960s screen queen Barbara Steele as one of the unlucky residents who gets little visitor while relaxing with a glass of wine in a bath.

Cronenberg on Cronenberg
‘The true subject of horror films is death and anticipation of death, and that leads to the question of man as body as opposed to man as spirit’.

Shivers (1975)The Arrow Films Release
Shivers was digitally restored by the Toronto International Film Festival at Technicolor with supervision by director David Cronenberg, and was delivered to Arrow Films by Lionsgate for its 2014 dual format (Blu-ray and DVD) release in the UK. Also available in SteelBook format.

The extras features the new documentary, Parasite Memories, the archive Canadian TV episode, On Screen!, about the film’s release, and From Stereo to Video, a featurette charting Cronenberg’s career. The collector’s booklet features an essay by Paul Corupe on Medical Terror in Cronenberg’s Shivers, an extract from Cronenberg on Cronenberg (1992), a reprint of the 1975 Saturday Night magazine article by Robert Fulford (as Marshall Delaney) and a 1975 Cinema Canada article. The reversible sleeve features new cover art by Nat Marsh.

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