Shivers – Canada, 1975

‘Being terrified is just the beginning…’

Shivers is a 1975 Canadian science fiction body horror feature film written and directed by David Cronenberg (Dead RingersThe Fly; VideodromeRabid). It stars Barbara Steele, Paul Hampton, Joe Silver and Lynn Lowry.

The movie was filmed as Orgy of the Blood Parasites; and has also been released as The Parasite MurdersThey Came from Within, and, for its French Canadian distribution, Frissons.

The cheap yet highly effective monster and makeup effects were created by Joe Blasco.

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A young couple are welcomed as residents to an exclusive Starliner Towers on Nuns’ Island. Meanwhile, Dr. Hobbes is seen murdering his adolescent prostitute mistress by strangling her, then cutting open her stomach and pouring acid into her body to kill the parasites, before committing suicide by slashing his own throat.

Partway into the story, the audience learn the reason for Hobbes’s actions; most of Shivers consists of social set piece tableaux depicting the promiscuous relationships that spread the parasites to the other residents…

Shivers David Cronenberg Arrow Video Blu-ray

Buy Blu-ray + DVD or Steelbook from Amazon.co.uk

  • New High Definition Digital Transfer supervised and approved by writer-director David Cronenberg
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
  • Original mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Parasite Memories: The Making of Shivers – A brand new documentary featuring interviews with stars Barbara Steele, Allan Kolman and Lynn Lowry, special effects genius Joe Blasco and film critic Kier-La Janisse
  • On Screen! – An episode of the Canadian television programme which documents the release history of Shivers, featuring interviews with Cronenberg, co-producer Don Carmody, as well as other cast and crew
  • From Stereo to Video – A specially-commissioned video essay by Caelum Vatnsdal, author of They Came from Within: A History of Canadian Horror Cinema, charting Cronenberg’s career from his experimental beginnings through to Videodrome, his first major studio picture
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nat Marsh
  • Collector’s Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Paul Corupe, creator of the Canuxploitation website, reprinted excerpts of Cronenberg on Cronenberg and more, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

“Cronenberg began to market a feature script called Orgy of the Blood Parasites in order to break into big time movie-making. He eventually hooked up with John Dunning and Andre Link at Cinepix in Montreal, and after holding off for three years, the Canadian Film Development Corporation decided to take a chance on the neophyte director. With Ivan Reitman (fresh off Cannibal Girls) as producer and a $100,000 budget, the film, now retitled The Parasite Murders (and eventually Shivers), was finally brought to fruition.

Then the shit hit the fan. Robert Fulford, writing under the alias of Marshall Delaney, absolutely savaged the film in his Saturday Night magazine review:

“(The film) is a disgrace to everyone connected with it including the taxpayers,” he ranted. “It’s as if the Canada Council, wildly casting for a way to get Canadian writers working, were to invest in sadistic p*rnography.” Canuxploitation.com

Buy They Came from Within: A History of Canadian Horror Cinema book from:

Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

” …as a film it’s an integral part of David Cronenberg’s filmography and although it is crudely put together it makes for a more interesting and entertaining film than Romero’s The Crazies – which toys with some similarly uncomfortable themes – or Rabid, Cronenberg’s follow-up film. A flawed but impressive debut that still manages to make you feel slightly grubby nearly 40 years later.” Chris Ward, Ancient Slumber

“These creatures don’t care about Body Snatching. It’s the mind they snatch, out of the superficial shell of social constrains that imprisons Starliner’s tenants. Once all that pesky “sexual assault” business is out of the way, is the New Parasitic World Order really so bad? All ages, classes, races, and creeds seem united behind screwing each other’s brains out as never before in human history.” David DeMoss, And You Thought It Was… Safe (?)

“The movie is rather cheaply made, but Cronenberg does an effective job with what he has. The little slugs that somehow can jump, sometimes burn, and latch on to their victims resemble the monsters in later films like Slither (which borrows a few scenes from here) and Night of the Creeps… it would have been interesting how the filmed would have looked with a bigger budget, but its low-cost also amplifies the horror.” JP Roscoe, Basement Rejects

“Predominantly shot from low wide angles, the camera barely moves and the editing and framing are simple and unobtrusive. This creates an almost documentary look to the film, further heightening its sense of realism. As the blood and parasite flesh begins to violate the ordered frame of Cronenberg’s camera, the audience cannot help but feel they are witnessing actual events.” Cinema Autopsy

“Some people have taken the film too seriously, comparing it to Night of the Living Dead and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but Cronenberg, a former experimental/underground filmmaker is having his own weird joke at the genre’s expense. They Came from Within sends up the traditions of old sf/horror films and as such is good clean fun.” John Brosnan, Future Tense: The Cinema of Science Fiction, St. Martin’s Press, 1978

“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…” Peter Fuller, Kultguy’s Keep

“There is the tendency among critics to read Shivers in terms of the complex metaphors about sex and the fusion of flesh and science that developed markedly throughout David Cronenberg’s later films. It is perhaps a mistake to over-analyse Shivers in this sense as it is intended as no more than a good solid horror movie. Certainly, Shivers is a gleeful dive into taboo breaking upon Cronenberg’s part…” Richard Scheib, Moria

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“Interestingly because Shivers came early on in Cronenberg’s career and because this didn’t have a big budget it has acting which isn’t that great. It also doesn’t have fleshed out characters with many just there to be victims. As such when the movie is over you find yourself forgetting who was in it and who the characters were but know you want to watch it again.” Andy Webb, The Movie Scene

“It’s apparent that someone connected with They Came From Within has an impertinent sense of humor even though the film is so tackily written and directed, so darkly photographed and the sound so dimly recorded, that it’s difficult to stay with it.” Vincent Canby, The New York Times, July 7, 1976

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“Horror movies by their very nature should be horrible, and Shivers certainly is. A combination of confrontational images, cinematic artistry, black humour and low-budget invention is a winning one. Shivers is an intelligent horror film that made me sit up and think “Wow”, this guy is really going for the jugular!” John Costello, The Pocket Essential: David Cronenberg, 2000

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“Despite the low budget and some amateurish acting, Cronenberg (who also wrote the screenplay) succeeds in creating a stinging rebuke to the swinging 70s. The film is helped immensely by Joe Blasco’s wondrously repulsive make-up effects. One can’t help but notice (as Cronenberg himself has pointed out), there are more than a few similarities between this and Alien.” The Terror Trap

“Cronenberg’s brand of body horror isn’t to everyone’s taste, but to call him a reactionary anti-sensualist who metes out grotesque punishment for sins of the flesh — as detractors have — is to miss the point. His beat is the underbelly of the mind-body schism, and illness as metaphor is his stock in trade. It’s no great leap to make the argument that a libido-liberating sex parasite is just what the residents of Starliner Towers need to shake them out of their prefab anomie.” TV Guide

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” …questions were asked as to whether or not the Canadian government should be helping to fund such ‘trash’. Completely missing the films core points about repression and the lack of intimacy within modern communities, these critics would also miss the films streak of jet black humour. Cronenberg is often viewed as an overtly serious film maker but many of his films are laced with a wicked sense of humour that underline the darker principles at work.” Stuart Smith, UK Horror Scene

“Cronenberg’s first proper feature film is a now notorious classic in his repertoire, covering many of the themes of later horror movies: Body-horror, psycho-sexual perversion, some social commentary, bizarre special-effects and dark obsessions […] Gritty, raw, disturbing and strange, but simple, and with a only a thin plot backing up the sex-body-horror.” The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre

Choice dialogue:

“Even old flesh is erotic flesh!”

Cast and characters:

  • Paul Hampton … Roger St. Luc
  • Joe Silver … Rollo Linsky
  • Lynn Lowry … Nurse Forsythe
  • Allan Kolman … Nicholas Tudor (as Alan Migicovsky)
  • Susan Petrie … Janine Tudor
  • Barbara Steele … Betts
  • Ronald Mlodzik … Merrick
  • Barry Baldaro … Detective Heller (as Barry Boldero)
  • Camil Ducharme … Mr. Guilbault (as Camille Ducharme)
  • Hanna Poznanska … Mrs. Guilbault (as Hanka Posnanska)
  • Wally Martin … Doorman
  • Vlasta Vrana … Kresimer Sviben
  • Silvie Debois … Benda Sviben
  • Charles Perley … Delivery Boy
  • Al Rochman … Parkins

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Categories: 1970s, body horror, Canadian, mad scientist

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