Oct 20, 2014

October 2014 Horror Movie a Day - Day 19: SHIVERS (1975)

The Starliner Towers, an oasis of calm and tranquility far away - yet still close enough - to the rat race that is Montreal. It is a luxury apartment complex with all the amenities you need - doctor, dentist, pharmacy, pool and of course parasite infected sex-crazed maniacs. Wait, what?

Shivers is directed by David Cronenberg, and according to IMDb, was shot in only 15 days. I am mixed on Cronenberg's work however I was really taken by this film. It has a raw intensity that reminded me of Romero's Night of the Living Dead. I don't think that is a coincidence as the sexually crazed tenants of the Starliner resemble zombies in every way possible. Instead of eating brains though, they just want want to get down and dirty.

Honey, If you didn't like my meatloaf, all you had to do was tell me.
The picture opens with an extremely uncomfortable scene. As a young, energetic and happy couple is shown around their future home at the Starliner, Dr. Emile Hobbes (Fred Doederlein) chases an erratic young girl - in a catholic school girl's uniform at that (not a coincidence) - around her apartment. He violently attacks her, rips off her clothes and binds her. Just when we think he is about to do something way too uncomfortable for the imagination, he slices her open, pours some sort of liquid into her chest and then slits his own throat. The scene is stark and violent, enhanced by the sterile looking apartment and lack of any score or sounds other than those of the attack.

Hey Alien, we did this first!
Hobbes has been experimenting using parasites in transplants, but the parasites have developed into a dangerous aphrodisiac that transforms their carrier into a sex-starved maniac. It is passed from person to person like a venereal disease (yep, no coincidence there either). Hobbes' teenage guinea pig has been involved in some err, umm 'extra-curricular' activities - intended by Hobbes - to spread the organism about the apartment. It got out of control which is why Hobbes killed her and himself. It's too late though as a handsome insurance salesman is experiencing chest pains, and has something moving in his stomach that is resembles something from the Alien series.

The lineup for the bar at this party gets out of hand.
The Starliner's in-house physician, Roger St. Luc (Paul Hampton), stumbles upon Hobbes' research. When residents start getting attacked by parasites, he realizes they may have an epidemic on their hands and he has to find a way to stop it before it affects the whole city. One-by-one the residents are overcome by ravenous sexual desire, and spread the virus around as the building becomes one big orgy. 

Way too much tongue.
There is so much uncomfortable imagery in this movie, it makes for an extremely unnerving experience. There are erotic scenes of women making out with women and traditional sex scenes, but then these are followed by a woman being attacked by a parasite in the bathtub, a father making out with his daughter (yikes), two men chasing around St. Luc with the obvious intention of raping him, and the worst is when an infected man charges into an elevator with a vulnerable woman and her daughter. Cronenberg thankfully shows us the aftermath as the elevator reaches the ground floor and only the mother was a target with the daughter appearing untouched (phew). That opening attack by Hobbes on the teenager sets the tone, and it only gets worse from that point on. Thankfully there are a few light moments to ease the tension like when the insurance salesman throws up blood over his balcony onto a pair of old ladies below (thankfully they have an umbrella - a clear, see-through one) and they think it's the remains of a bird that has crashed into a window.

Seriously, if you're going to be attacked by zombies, this particular method of infection is the way to go.
You could call this Night of the Living Horny because the sexual desires have transformed these residents into zombies, driven by desire. I imagine that if they do make it into Montreal (and I won't reveal that...that would ruin everything) that the city would be one big bilingual orgy - and right before the 1976 Olympics at that which also adds in an extra layer of the world coming to carry the infection to all parts of the glove (there is mention of the Olympics on one of the background radio broadcasts which again can't be a coincidence).

I liked this picture and enjoyed it more than some of Cronenberg's later work. It has been recently restored by TIFF, and with the exception of a few moments at the beginning, the transfer is outstanding. The film is currently streaming on Netflix.