Also known as Orgy of the Blood Parasites (written title), The Parasite Murders (it was filmed under that name), They Came from Within and Frissons, the themes of David Cronenberg third film — debated in Canadian Parliament at the time of its release due to its blend of sex and violence — are still beyond relevant today.
The initial reviews were so brutally against this movie that one high-profile hit piece by Robert Fulford (writing as “Marshall Delaney” for the magazine Saturday Night) didn’t just hurt the director’s chances of getting funding. It got him kicked out of his apartment thanks to a moral cause. owing to his landlord’s inclusion of a “morality clause” in the lease.
Starliner Towers — actually Tourelle-Sur-Rive, a 1962 apartment building designed by Mies van der Rohe, who was on the same level as Frank Lloyd Wright — is where Dr. Emil Hobbes and Dr. Rollo Linsky have been working on a project that has a parasite that can take over the function of a human organ. Why are they working on something like this?
Hobbs had the belief that modern humans had become over-intellectual and estranged from their primal impulse, so he created “a combination of aphrodisiac and venereal disease that will, hopefully, turn the world into one beautiful mindless orgy” and reassert humanity’s true sexually aggressive instincts.
Hobbes has killed a young woman named Annabelle by cutting open her stomach and pouring acid into it and then killing himself, which is like taking a page right out of the works of Herschell Gordon Lewis. Whatever they made, it’s giving people stomach convulsions and making them throw up bloody parasites which they go on to infect others like an STD.
Before long, everyone in the building — including Lynn Lowrey and Barbara Steele — is infected. Unlike zombies, these creatures retain their intelligence on some level and just want to have violent sex.
Cronenberg hasn’t been shy about the fact that other movies have ripped off his film: “I have to say that some of my images like this [parasite] ended up in things like Alien, which was more popular than any of the films I’ve ever made. But the writer of Alien has definitely seen these movies, Dan O’Bannon. The idea of parasites that burst out of your body and uses a fluid and leaps on your face, that’s all in Shivers.” He said the same thing in 2015, nearly doubling down by stating: “…Alien, for example, which totally ripped off things from my movie Shivers…”
Dan O’Bannon rip something off? Hmm.
You can watch this on Tubi.
Cronenberg is one of the great philosophers of our time. Snobbery (movie intelligentsia has always had something against the horror genre) has prevented him from getting the accolades he richly deserves. Shivers has some rough edges — I much prefer Rabid and Videodrome — but it is a fascinating B-movie.
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