Like all ultra-luxury urban high-rises, and every single square inch of Manhattan real estate, the Starliner Towers has a problem: a Bug problem.
Shot on a shoestring budget and in a whirlwind 15 days in Montreal, "Shivers" (also known as "They Came from Within") is Canadian horror visionary and all-around Creepy Guy David Cronenberg's astounding, jaw-dropping little gem about the end of the world, in which humanity doesn't go out with a Bang or a Whimper, but more of a Moan.
But let's get something out of the way right now: David Cronenberg is a genius and, for my money, one of the top 3 horror film directors *ever*. And while it's certainly useful to view "Shivers" as a preview of coming attractions---without a doubt, it's amazing what the young Cronenberg was able to pull off under severe budgetary, time, and talent limitations---the movie stands on its own as a ground-breaking little nugget of unflinching grue that burrows under your skin and truly disturbs.
Things break down quickly in "Shivers", which is about a medical experiment gone horribly wrong, and the terrible toll it takes on the residents of a luxury island apartment complex outside Montreal---and from there the world.
The film's mad scientist (a nice turn by Fred Doederlein, who pops up again as the yoga master in "Scanners") wants to produce designer parasites that can be introduced into a body, devour a failing organ, and 'become' that organ, thus helping its host at the cost of a little blood.
But wouldn't ya know it, his first experiment Annabelle(a fetching Kathy Graham) refuses to play along with the Doc's good intentions, chiefly because the parasite has two complications: 1)within a few hours it turns its victim's mind to mush, and 2)it also has the unfortunate side-effect of making the subject a ravening sexual psychopath.
In the fim's shocking opening sequences, the Good Doctor brutally tries to abort his little extracurricular activity, but Annabelle has been a popular girl around the Starliner apartments, and faster than you can say "sick building syndrome" the little parasites, which look like a phallic combination of extra-large garden slug and Jimmy Dean sausage, are going a-roving through the apartment building in search of victims.
And faster than the tenants can say "the check's in the mail", they've been converted into a legion of slug-infested serial rapists looking for love in all the wrong places.
It may very well have been that Cronenberg's limitations forced him to adopt a style that was so sterile, brutal, and overlit that the film couldn't help being brutal and startling: from an infected old woman groaning from behind her door to a startled delivery man "I'm hungry...for LOVE", to an avid slug crawling up an elderly lady's walker, to the horrible death of Dr. Lenski, to the wicked elevator infection scene, to the part where screen goddess Barbara Steele is infected by one of the nasty parasites *in her bathtub* (ewww!), Cronenberg keeps up the pressure and ratchets the horror level up so high you feel your brain will pop. You haven't seen ghoulishly creepy until you've watched Allan Colman pleading and talking with a nest of parasites that have been setting up shop in his stomach. Grisly stuff.
Technically this is an average DVD. It could very well be that the movie was shot in a 1:33:1 aspect ratio, in which case the full-screen format is appropriate, but the sound here is atrocious. The extras here, including a theatrical trailer and an illuminating, goofy interview with Cronenberg, are pretty spare, so let's hope someone gets around to releasing this creepshow with the quality treatment it deserves.
Yes, "Shivers" foreshadows a deliciously cringe-inducing career---but for sheer skin-crawling nastiness, it has yet to be surpassed.