BLU-RAY REVIEW: SHIVERS / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: DAVID CRONENBERG / SCREENPLAY: DAVID CRONENBERG / STARRING: PAUL HAMPTON, LYNN LOWRY, ALLAN KOLMAN, BARBARA STEELE, JOE SILVER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
In terms of making a mark in the genre, Shivers is seen as an iconic movie that launched the career of the uniquely-talented David Cronenberg. Whereas the Canadian director would go on to make the likes of Rabid, Scanners, The Brood, Videodrome, The Fly and A History of Violence, it was with Shivers where it all really began for this master of the horror genre. And what a beginning it was.
Set in the remote, idyllic luxury apartment complex of Starliner Island, a medical experiment based on organ replacement goes array and results in a parasite taking over the inhabitants of the plush locale. With their sexual aggression and violent tendencies amped up to 11, the residents of Starliner are out to tear each limb from limb, well when they’re not trying to seduce each other and bump uglies, that is. At the centre of all of this is Dr. Roger St. Luc (Hampton), doing his best to fathom what is going on around him and trying to avoid contamination. Assisting St. Luc is assistant and girlfriend Nurse Forsythe (Lowry), plus aide from the more scientifically-minded Rollo (Silver).
Shivers is a film that immediately grabs your attention with its violent opening then refuses to let go, throwing shocking moments at the audience at a rapid pace as the Starliner Island complex becomes overrun by horned-up, raging bodies, playing out like an extreme version of a post-last orders kebab house visit - everyone's eyeing some action of some sort and it generally isn't going to end well. Even to this day, after having seen the film a multitude of times over the years, there’s still a sharp, guttural uneasiness to Cronenberg’s breakout film; there are still moments that pull at your stomach and have you wincing in disgust. Whilst a lot of this has to do with the almost turd-like parasite at the heart of all of the chaos, Cronenberg wonderfully constructs a film so bleak, so visceral and so powerful that it will stay with you long after the end credits come to a halt.
Performance-wise, Paul Hampton and his stylish sideburns hold the film together with a gruff, likeable turn as the lead of the piece, whilst the likes of Joe Silver and genre-vets Lynn Lowry and Barbara Steele all deliver well when leaned upon. Whilst they’re all supposedly looking at ways of containing this epidemic, Allan Kolman is put through the ringer as one of the infected, with a lot of the film’s grimmer moments landing at his door.
As ever with these recent Arrow releases of classic and cult films of yesteryear, this steelbook Blu-ray edition of Shivers is full of insightful, engaging extras that long-time fans of the film will lap up, particularly the lengthy featurettes looking at the film both at its release and now in hindsight. Then there’s the impressive new transfer of the film, supposedly overseen by Cronenberg himself, which sees Shivers’ grimy, violent charm never look so good. All in all, this is a fantastic release of a classic of the genre, brimming with the same sick, twisted enjoyment that made it so special all those years ago.
Special Features: Thee featurettes – ‘Parasite Memories: The Making of Shivers,’ ‘On Screen!,’ From Stereo to Video’ / Original theatrical trailer / Collector’s booklet
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