They Came from Within: 'Shivers' Review
I suppose in honor of my debut article for this month; I should be perfectly candid about my opinion on the month’s theme. I despise it. No, not because I hate Halloween or because I think it’s cliché. Rather, I, like many critics, loathe the horror genre. It’s an oversaturated, frequently recycled, low-effort breeding ground for film.
That’s not to say anything in the genre is bad, but in the current frame of film, one can judge a horror movie’s quality simply by whether it was watchable or not. That the movie didn’t compel one to wash their eyes bleach from looking at poorly rendered CGI or clean the blood from their eyes at the terrible dialogue delivery from twenty-something washed up Disney Channel stars in their skimpy clothes and fading celebrity status.
Which is why it’s a blessing of sorts, that I was assigned a film from a better time in horror. Though the 70’s weren’t necessarily the golden age of slasher flicks, it was a better time for horror than today.
Released in 1975 and directed by a younger, less experienced David Cronenberg, Shivers is a horror film and subtle social commentary on the dangers of the so-called “Sexual Revolution” and the lengths to which people will go to fulfill their primal lust. In the film, a scientist’s experiment with a new method of organ transplants instead produces a parasite in desperate need of a host and finds one quickly in the apartment complex it was created in. The parasite causes its host to succumb to strong sexual urges and through various gratuitous methods, spreads the infection to others causing most of the complex to fall prey to the power of hypersexual urges.
The film’s basis, which seems straight out of a teenage boy’s wet dream, is in fact what holds it together. What points may be docked for an almost juvenile plot and an almost unbearable amount of graphic nudity, are more than made up for in Cronenberg’s thesis. That is, the growing comfortability with sex and all things related to it (at the time of the film’s release) boded ill for society. Art does, in fact, imitate life, but sometimes, to get a message across, a dash of hyperbolic flavor must be thrown into the mix – and Cronenberg does just that.
Whether or not you agree with the director’s message is irrelevant. This film, though painfully campy and suffers from poorly-aged visual effects, is so committed to delivering its message that it earns the – however grudging – respect of the viewer. An over-the-top exercise in caution, Cronenberg’s Shivers is a solid piece on one man’s social paranoia fit for fans of horror and film alike.