Shivers (1975 film)

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Theatrical release poster
that features an alternate title
Directed byDavid Cronenberg
Produced byIvan Reitman
Written byDavid Cronenberg
CinematographyRobert Saad
Edited byPatrick Dodd
Distributed byCinépix Film Properties Inc.
Release date
  • October 10, 1975 (1975-10-10)
Running time
87 minutes[1]
Budget$185 000 (est.)[2]
Box office$1 million (Canada)[3]

Shivers (also known as The Parasite Murders and They Came from Within, and, for the French-Canadian distribution, Frissons) 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 luxury apartment complex outside of Montreal, Dr. Emil Hobbes murders a young woman named Annabelle. He slices open her stomach, pours acid into the wound and then commits suicide. Nick Tudor, who has been suffering from stomach convulsions, finds their bodies but leaves without calling the police. 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. He vomits a parasite over the railing of his balcony. The parasite slithers back into the apartment, where it attacks a cleaning woman in the basement, attaching itself to her face. His wife Janine tries to care for him, but he ignores her and prefers to talk to the parasites undulating in his abdomen. At the clinic, Roger sees a sexually active middle-aged resident who has been suffering from stomach convulsions. Roger postulates that his condition might be an STD that he caught from Annabelle.

Linsky calls Roger from Hobbes' office downtown to tell him that Hobbes had developed a parasite that was "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. Linsky warns Roger not to approach anyone who is behaving in a strange manner.

Nick tries to force Janine to have sex with him, but she recoils in horror when one of the parasites crawls from his mouth. She rushes to the apartment of her lesbian friend Betts, who was infected by one of the parasites while taking a bath. Betts seduces Janine and passes a parasite to her. Meanwhile, other residents become infected with the parasite, attack other residents and continue to spread the infection. Soon the hallways are full of people sexually assaulting or fighting one another. Roger combs the complex looking for the parasites while Forsythe, his nurse and lover, tends to an elderly couple who were attacked by one of the parasites.

Linsky arrives at Starliner Towers and goes to the Tudor apartment, as Roger had identified Nick as someone Annabelle might have infected. He finds Nick lying in bed, parasites crawling on his abdomen. When Linksy examines more closely, one of the parasites latches onto his cheek. Linsky tries to pull it off with pliers, but Nick kills him and swallows the parasite. Forsythe tries to flee the complex in her car but is attacked by the infected security guard. Before he can rape her, Roger arrives and kills him, and the two hide in the basement. Forsythe tells Roger of a dream that mixed eroticism and death, then vomits up a parasite. Roger knocks her out and tries to carry her to safety, but they are attacked by a horde of infected sex maniacs. Roger drops Forsythe to flee for his own safety, and she is overwhelmed by the infected. Roger kills Nick in his apartment, then tries to escape the complex via the swimming pool area. The infected block his path, and he is pulled into the pool by Janine and Betts. The rest of the infected hold Roger down while Forsythe infects him too.

The next morning, Roger, Forsythe and the other Starlight residents drive out of the garage and fan out into the city. That night, news reports encourage listeners not to panic as police investigate an epidemic of sexual assaults in Montreal.


  • 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.[citation needed] The film was shot on Nuns' Island in Montreal, with a shooting schedule of fifteen days.[citation needed]


Shivers was released in Montréal on October 10, 1975 where it was distributed by Cinépix.[4] The film was released in Canada as The Parasite Murders and in both Canada and the United Kingdom as Shivers.[4] The film was released in the United States as They Came From Within.[4]

The film was released on DVD by Image Entertainment on September 16, 1998 and is currently out of print.[5]


On its initial release, Shivers was not a positively received film.[6][7] 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.[6][7][8] From the negative reviews, 12 of the 16 negative reviews are very negative while three of the six positive reviews were very positive.[8]

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 film is. After all, you paid for it." He called it "crammed with blood, violence and depraved sex" and "the most repulsive movie I've ever seen."[9] 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.[10] Other Canadian critics gave the film negative reviews, such as Martin Knelman in The Globe and Mail and Dane Larnken in Montreal Gazette.[11] 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.[12]

The film was one of the highest-grossing English-language Canadian films of all-time with a gross of $1 million in Canada.[3]

Related Works[edit]

The screenplay was published by Faber & Faber in the 2002 collection David Cronenberg: Collected Screenplays 1: Stereo, Crimes of the Future, Shivers, Rabid.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "SHIVERS (X)". British Board of Film Classification. September 9, 1975. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
  2. ^ "Shivers - Humanity Collapsing From Within" (en-US). Filmotomy (2018-07-18). Retrieved 2019-08-07. "Having only been made for $185,000, within a year it had made $5 million, which made it the most profitable Canadian feature film up to that time."
  3. ^ a b "Canada-Only B.O. Figures". Variety. November 21, 1979. p. 24.
  4. ^ a b c "Parasite Murders". Collections Canada. Retrieved February 24, 2017.
  5. ^ "Shivers". Retrieved March 31, 2011.
  6. ^ a b Jancovich 2003, p. 109.
  7. ^ a b Jancovich 2003, p. 110.
  8. ^ a b Jancovich 2003, p. 111.
  9. ^ Fulford, Robert (September 1975), "You should know how bad this film is. After all, you paid for it", Saturday Night, p. 83
  10. ^ Le cinéma de David Cronenberg et la peinture de Francis Bacon – Regards croisés
  11. ^ Jancovich 2003, p. 113.
  12. ^ Roger Ebert (March 19, 1976). "They Came from Within/Shivers". Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  13. ^ Cronenberg, David (2002). David Cronenberg: Collected Screenplays 1: Sterero, Crimes of the Future, Shivers, Rabid. Faber & Faber. ISBN 0571210171.


  • Jancovich, Mark (2003). Defining Cult Movies: The Cultural Politics of Oppositional Tastes. Manchester University Press. ISBN 071906631X.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External links[edit]