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Theatrical release poster
that features an alternate title
|Directed by||David Cronenberg|
|Produced by||Ivan Reitman|
|Written by||David Cronenberg|
|Edited by||Patrick Dodd|
|Distributed by||Cinépix Film Properties Inc.|
Shivers (also known as The Parasite Murders, They Came from Within and Frissons for the French-Canadian distribution) is a 1975 Canadian science fiction body horror film written and directed by David Cronenberg and starring Paul Hampton, Lynn Lowry and Barbara Steele. The original shooting title was Orgy of the Blood Parasites.
At Starliner Towers, a modern high-rise apartment complex on Starliner Island located just outside Montreal, smarmy manager, Merrick, welcomes prospective tenants. In one of the apartments, Dr. Emil Hobbes attacks a young woman wearing a school uniform called Annabelle. Hobbes strangles her to death, slices open her stomach, pours acid into the wound and then commits suicide.
In another apartment, Nick Tudor sits before a bathroom mirror suffering from stomach convulsions. Nick goes to Annabelle's apartment but, recoiling in revulsion from the scene of carnage, he leaves anonymously.
The two bodies are found by resident doctor, Roger St. Luc, who calls the police. Hobbes' medical partner, Rollo Linsky, tells St. Luc that he and Hobbes had been working on a project to create: "a parasite that can take over the function of a human organ".
After suffering more convulsions, Nick leaves work early, returning home to his apartment. While leaning over his balcony, he vomits what appears to be feces, just as two old women pass below. The object, which is actually a parasite, lands on one of the women's umbrellas, startling them. They think a dead bird has landed on them, due to the blood-stained splat on the umbrella. The parasite slithers away, unnoticed, into the undergrowth.
In Starliner's basement, a laundry lady spots a trail of brown slime leading from an open window to a washing machine. As she lifts the lid, she is attacked by the parasite, which leaps out and clamps onto her cheek. Unable to detach it, she falls to the ground unconscious.
In Dr. St. Luc's office, an elderly resident complains to the doctor about stomach lumps. He postulates that his condition might be an STD that he has caught from "the girl in 1511" - Annabelle Brown.
In another apartment, Nick Tudor's wife, Janine, confides to her friend, Betts, about Nick's recent behaviour. When Janine returns, she finds Nick has passed out on the kitchen floor having vomited blood.
In a corridor, two children are playing door-knocking pranks when a parasite appears in the mail box opener of the Tudor apartment. The kids run away in terror.
Inside the Tudor apartment, Nick callously dismisses Janine's concerns about his health. Alone in bed, Nick talks affectionately to his chest lumps, encouraging them to move. Meanwhile, Betts runs a bath, while listening to a radio announcement about the murder and suicide at Starliner Towers.
Linsky calls St. Luc from Hobbes' office downtown, telling him about notes he has found, revealing Hobbes' secret ambitions for the parasite: "a combination of aphrodisiac and venereal disease that will, hopefully, turn the world into one mindless orgy". Hobbes believed modern humans had become over-intellectual and estranged from their primal impulses. Hobbes' ambition with his parasitic invention was to reassert humanity's unbridled, sexually aggressive instincts, and he used Annabelle as his guinea pig.
St. Luc tells Linsky that Annabelle was highly promiscuous, and may have infected several men in Starliner Towers, including Nick Tudor. Linsky arranges to meet St. Luc later and warns him not to approach anyone who is behaving in a strange manner.
The frequency of parasitic attacks now increases exponentially: the laundry lady attacks a delivery man, who then attacks a mother and daughter in an elevator. The delivery man and infected mother and daughter then attack and infect the lobby's security guard.
While relaxing in her bath, Betts is infected by a parasite which worms its way up through the plughole. Forsythe is attacked in her apartment by an infected, sex-crazed resident. St. Luc arrives just after the infected man flees, having been stabbed by Forsythe in self-defence. St. Luc collects a sample of the infected man's blood to examine.
Nick attempts to seduce Janine, but she is repelled by him when she feels lumps moving in his stomach. An elderly couple, attacked in a corridor by a parasite, tell St. Luc that they threw the creature down a chute, where it may still be found in the basement dumpster. With Forsythe keeping the couple company, St. Luc goes into the cellar, in search of the parasite, but he is ambushed by another infected resident, who he manages to overpower.
Janine is comforting Nick, when a bloody parasite emerges from his mouth onto the pillow beside her. In shock, she runs to Betts, who is now also infected. Worried about St. Luc, Forsythe leaves the elderly couple in search of the doctor who is now in Merrick's office, ordering him to call the police. A mob of zombie-like, infected residents roaming Starliner Towers' corridors, break into the old couple's apartment, overpowering and infecting them.
In the basement garage, St. Luc finds Forsythe about to be raped by the infected security guard. St. Luc shoots him in the back. Unable to escape from the building, St. Luc and Forsythe hide in the basement, awaiting police help.
In the lobby, a young couple complain to a clearly-infected Merrick about the disturbances. He ushers them into his office, where they are pounced on by a delirious group of orgiastic zombies. In her apartment, Betts comforts a distraught Janine, revealing her amorous feelings for her. As the two kiss, a parasitic exchange occurs.
Linsky arrives at Starliner Towers, to an eerily deserted lobby. At the Tudor apartment, he finds the door wide open and Nick lying prone in bed, his stomach seething with parasites. One of the creatures attacks Linsky, who tries to defend himself. Nick himself then attacks and kills Linsky, replacing the parasite that had attacked Linksy into his own body, by cramming it into his mouth.
In the basement, Forsythe tells St. Luc about a dream in which an old man tells her that: "even old flesh is erotic flesh, that disease is the love of two alien kinds of creatures for each other, that even dying is an act of eroticism". Suddenly, a parasite crawls out of her mouth; St. Luc knocks her unconscious and carries her along a corridor, containing storage lockers for the residents. The wooden wall-panels burst apart and a sea of arms break through, reaching at them. Forced to leave Forsythe behind, St. Luc runs to Tudor's apartment, where he finds Nick in the kitchen, kneeling over Linsky's bloody corpse. St. Luc shoots Nick then tries to escape from the building, but finds all the exits blocked.
Making his way to the indoor swimming pool, St. Luc sees Betts and Janine in the pool, fooling around amorously, both of them infected. Locating an open patio door, St. Luc finally escapes from the building, only to be confronted by hundreds of Starliner residents, all clearly infected, slowly and silently advancing towards him. Forced to retreat back into the pool area, St. Luc is pushed into the pool where Betts, Janine and Forsythe await him. The mob of sex-crazed zombies jump in, attacking from all directions. St. Luc finally relinquishes his struggle to remain uninfected and the mob devour him with their sick lust.
In the final scene, the time is 5:26 a.m. about an hour before dawn. A radio announcement describes a wave of unexplained sexual assaults across Montreal and the surrounding area, which may have originated at Starliner Towers. The Center for Disease Control is currently investigating a possible epidemic of some kind. The final shots over the end credits show a long line of cars with infected people leaving Starliner Island, driving across the bridge leading to Montreal and the rest of the outside world.
- Paul Hampton as Roger St. Luc
- Joe Silver as Rollo Linsky
- Lynn Lowry as Nurse Forsythe
- Alan Migicovsky as Nicholas Tudor
- Susan Petrie as Janine Tudor
- Barbara Steele as Betts
- Ronald Mlodzik as Merrick
- Barry Boldero as Det. Heller
- Camil Ducharme as Mr. Guilbault
- Hanka Posnanska as Mrs. Guilbault
- Wally Martin as Doorman
- Vlasta Vrána as Kresimer Sviben
- Silvie Debois as Benda Sviben
Shivers was Cronenberg's first feature film, and was the most profitable Canadian film made to date in 1975, but was so controversial that the Parliament of Canada debated its social and artistic value and effect upon society, because of objections to its sexual and violent content. The film was shot on Nuns' Island in Montreal, with a shooting schedule of fifteen days.
Shivers was released in Montréal on October 10, 1975 where it was distributed by Cinépix. The film was released in Canada as The Parasite Murders and in both Canada and the United Kingdom as Shivers. The film was released in the United States as They Came From Within.
On its initial release, Shivers was not a positively received film. Of a selection of 28 reviews from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium and France, 16 reviews are negative, six were positive and the rest could be classified as neutral. From the negative reviews, 12 of the 16 negative reviews are very negative while three of the six positive reviews were very positive.
Canadian journalist Robert Fulford, writing as "Marshall Delaney", decried the content of Shivers in the pages of the national magazine Saturday Night. Since Cronenberg's film was partially financed by the taxpayer-funded Canadian Film Development Corporation (later known as Telefilm Canada), Fulford headlined the article "You Should Know How Bad This Movie Is, You Paid For It." He called it "crammed with blood, violence and depraved sex" and "the most repulsive movie I've ever seen." Not only did this high-profile attack make it more difficult for Cronenberg to obtain funding for his subsequent movies, but Cronenberg later said Fulford's article also resulted in him being kicked out of his apartment in Toronto, owing to his landlord's inclusion of a "morality clause" in the lease. Other Canadian critics gave the film negative reviews, such as Martin Knelman in the Toronto Globe and Mail and Dane Larnken in the Montreal Gazette. American critic Roger Ebert, who noted that he expected a dismal exploitation film since Shivers was part of a double-bill with the faux-snuff film Snuff, but instead was impressed by a lot of the film and ended up giving it a two-and-a-half-star rating.
- "SHIVERS (X)". British Board of Film Classification. 1975-09-09. Retrieved 2013-05-18.
- "Parasite Murders". Collections Canada. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
- "Shivers". dvdempire.com. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
- Jancovich 2003, p. 109.
- Jancovich 2003, p. 110.
- Jancovich 2003, p. 111.
- Fulford, Robert (September 1975), "You should know how bad this film is. After all, you paid for it", Saturday Night, p. 83
- Le cinéma de David Cronenberg et la peinture de Francis Bacon - Regards croisés
- Jancovich 2003, p. 113.
- Roger Ebert (March 19, 1976). "They Came from Within/Shivers". rogerebert.com. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
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