SHIVERS (or They Came From Within) is NOT a very good date movie. At all. David Cronenberg’s absolutely unsettling and increasingly relentless genre classic may make you fear all of the following (in no order) sex, sexually transmitted diseases, parasites, scalpels, Canada, quirky (but sexy) Canadians, somewhat secluded apartment complexes, swimming, bathing, kitchen sinks, liquids in general, elevators, upset stomachs, children and doctors with strange hobbies (plus a few other things major and minor).
That said, the film excels at what it intends so well that it’s absolutely required viewing even though if you DO make it a date night flick. Just don’t be surprised to feel your butt muscles getting a workout as they slowly ambulate you sideways away from that sweetie sitting next to you (and his or her butt will be doing the same thing, by the way). On the other hand, this may be a film that brings you closer if only to get in some cuddle time afterwards. “No sex, please… we’re now both as scared as s#!t!”
975There’s no escape from the film’s overall tone of depressing sexual tension mixed with insanity and a direct sense of events spiraling out of anyone’s control thanks to the mad doctor who creates the parasite killing himself and his younger lover (who’s been spreading them through contact with some other residents) in the opening sequence. With the mad doctor and his pretty friend now deceased, there’s no way for anyone else in the movie to know that normally quiet and reserved Montreal apartment complex is now a festering block of human petri dishes, you soon figure out that no one is going to get out of this unscathed…
And in his first feature, Cronenberg doesn’t disappoint one bit. Well, almost. Some of the acting isn’t great and the last few minutes can be a bit more amusing than frightening if you let your mood dare to lighten for a few too many seconds. But the general tone of his “body horror” theme rings clear and true and when he hits it right, you’ll be cringing, wanting to cover your face, but too fascinated to look away. This isn’t a film where you look for a hero or heroine to identify with at all. It’s fruitless to do so and in fact, can negatively color the film for some viewers if they walk into it with a sense of hope that some Hollywood miracle will occur. Sure, you get heroics from a few cast members who you THINK will escape the nightmare, but Cronenberg stages the opening so smart viewers will see there’s no help, no hope and no escape for anyone young or old.
There’s some still shocking practical effects work and a nice amount of blood here, but for some viewers, it’s the sexual stuff that’s going to be the stomach churner for them. I won’t spoil anything except to say if you’re an exceptional prude, the film will send the top of your head splattering into the ceiling a few times. There’s not any “X” rated action going on at all, mind you. There’s just a general air of perversity that soaks through some scenes as things go south that you may find yourself shaking your head (well, once you screw that top back on). Horror icon Barbara Steele is the biggest surprise here in what amounts to an extended cameo as a sexy neighbor who ends up taking very good care of someone you’d have loved to see get away from the inescapable. You DID check your expectations at the credit sequence, correct?
Anyway, by the end of this one, you’ll be wanting to avoid your own neighbors for about a month, particularly if you live in an apartment building and have been getting strange glances from people who look kind of new and a bit too energetic at any time of the day. Or perhaps you’re already infected and just waiting for the right moment to make your move? Hmmm… I’m keeping my doors locked and ordering my food in for a bit, it seems. Eeek.