31 in 31: Shivers (1975)

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shiversStory: A dirty old man murders a beautiful young student.  But the dirty old man is actually a medical professor, and the beautiful young student is actually someone he infected with a parasite that was a combination venereal disease/aphrodisiac.  But the student shagged just about every guy in her apartment complex, infecting everyone she touched.  So the professor’s attempt to stop the spread may be too late….

Scares: Tons of creepy visuals, and decades after it’s release it’s still got it’s fair share of…shivers that could creep you out.  Blame/applaud director David “I never met weird shit I didn’t like” Cronenberg.

Splat factor: Again, it’s from David Cronenberg. FX makeup master Joe Blasco handles the FX. What do you think?

Closing scene “shocker”:  Sorta?  If you’ve seen Cronenberg before, you know what’s coming.  If not, you may be surprised.

Remake, Sequel or OG (Original Ghoul): If it’s Cronenberg, it’s one of a kind.  That should be his resume tag line, and it’s definitely true here.

Trick or Treat?: Shivers (also known as Orgy of the Blood Parasites, The Parasite Murders, They Came from Within, and Frissons.  Whew.)  is Cronenberg’s first film.  It also lays the groundwork for just about everything else he’s done. Sex, fear, changing/becoming, primal urges that can’t be stopped, “The Flesh”; they’re all here.  Thought of as a classic in the “body horror” genre, Shivers still delivers a sense of dread that has held up over the years.  Is this film Fine Cinema?  Of course not; the film’s low budget, goofy 70s art direction, and hammy acting will always put it in the cult classics section.  But that ain’t a bad place to be.

“I’m hungry for love!” That statement shouldn’t send chills down your spine, but here it does, or at least it’ll creep you out.  As the sexual parasite spreads, the entire apartment complex turns into one bloody orgy.  And I’m not using British slang; Blasco creates some pretty crazy FX, and there’s plenty of the red stuff along with his ooky parasite monsters.

The parasite-as-health-breakthrough is a hot topic now, thanks to the popularity of the zombie genre (See: Mira Grant).  Shivers ain’t bad for what it is, but it doesn’t quite hold up alongside classics like Videodrome, The Fly and Scanners.  But if you can relax and watch it as a strange little horror/sci-fi throwback from the 70s, it’s a crazy/cool freak-out of a film.

Score: pumpkinpumpkinpumpkin

3 out of 5 pumpkins.  I kept wanting to laugh at it, or at least think it’s dated or dull, but it’s too compelling. I found myself firmly in the thumbs-up camp on this one.  Nice work for a starter film by a now-revered director in the genre.

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