70’s cinema was full of explorations of the decade’s sexual zeitgeist, but there really is nothing quite like David Cronenberg‘s 1975 effort Shivers. There’s not much to the plot: an isolated apartment complex is infested with parasitic critters which turn their hosts into sex-starved maniacs. But what it loses in narrative brevity it gains in sheer queasy terror.
The opening scene, a young couple looking to rent a unit while the camera cross-cuts to a horrific murder elsewhere in the building, is pure Cronenberg. True to form the film is chock full of people who barely relate – in some ways they seem better off once they’ve got one of those things in them. Cronenberg himself has said he feels more empathy for the infected than he does for the sterile inhabitants.
Aiding Cronenberg’s mayhem are a young Lynn Lowry (whose almost extraterrestrial beauty is hard to forget) and the legendary Barbara Steele, probably better known for her role in Mario Bava’s Black Sunday.
Like all Cronenberg films, Shivers can be hard to watch if you’re a hypochondriac. He’s not considered the king of body horror for nothing. There’s also a fair amount of rape-iness going on – so, be warned.
Bonus: David Cronenberg and the Cinema of the Extreme (BBC2, 1997)