We keep our promises here at Picturenose – following a really interesting discussion on my recent review of David Cronenberg’s The Brood (1977) with our reviewer Agata, in which the brave lady got around to seeing what is perhaps the great Canadian director’s finest out-and-out horror, period, I felt that it was only right to return as promised to Shivers (1975) and share my thoughts – essentially, it’s body-horror at its most basic and, in a curiously perverse way that could only be Cronenberg, beautiful.
A scientist living in a luxury tenement building near Quebec has way too much time on his hands – he believes that “modern man thinks too much and does too little” and, in creating genetically engineered parasites as organ transplants, also discovers that he can release mankind’s primitive, hedonistic urges, turning the (truly loathsome) creatures’ human hosts into sex-crazed maniacs who want to spread their infection to, well, everyone. When Dr Roger St. Luc (Paul Hampton) discovers the mutilated body of a young girl, her internal organs destroyed by acid and the scientist himself, who has taken his own life, he inadvertently releases the escaped parasite into the building – sex has never been so dangerous.
As was touched upon in the dicussion, Cronenberg is and always has been an auteur who’s willing to go places in the human psyche and experience that no other director would dare; his early films are overdue for remakes, but this reviewer would be very surprised if any modern major studio touches them.
Combine this with Cronenberg’s intimate understanding of the fact that sex, if you think about it, is essentially a rather strange (disturbing?) activity anyway, and the notion that if it was really all that anyone cared about, things could get very messy, very quickly, and you have the ingredients for one of the most disturbing horrors ever made – its ocassionally forced acting only adds to the docu-drama feel that the film has, before the term was even invented.
Cronenberg’s early work has always given this reviewer the definite impression that congress, for him, was something red, raw and dripping, and the director brilliantly combines such an idea with a denouement that moves towards the apocalyptic. In short, Sodom and Gomorrah might not actually have been very nice places – do you want to find out?