Shivers (1975)

ShiversPosterWelcome to Starliner Towers, the apartment complex located on its own island that has just about everything a civilized citizen could need: a parking garage, a beautiful view, name-brand electrical appliances in every unit, cable tv, an olympic-sized swimming pool, a golf course, restaurants, boutiques, dentists and doctors on premises and slug-like parasites that take over your body and turn you into a sex-crazed maniac zombie on the prowl. Studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units now available!

In Shivers, David Cronenberg finally gets around to putting his unflattering view of human society and interest in weird-ass medicine into an entertaining (and watchable) narrative. Most of the film takes place in the aforementioned Starliner Towers, a symbol of modern-day middle-class civilization if there ever was one. It’s also a perfect example of what Dr. Emil Hobbs despises about modern-day man: too much thinking, not enough fucking.

In the first scenes of the movie, we see Dr. Hobbs mudering and dissecting a young girl, interspersed with a representative of Starliner Towers showing a young couple their potential new apartment. We later learn that Dr. Hobbs, while working

One way to a girl's heart.

One way to a girl’s heart.

under the guise of finding a replacement for organ transplants, instead created a parasite that is both aphrodisiac and venereal disease. His hopes for this parasite is to infect the human population and “turn the world into one beautiful, mindless orgy.”

The resident doctor gets dragged into this whole mess after examining the earlier-dissected Annabelle Brown, sex-bug’s patient zero. Turns out the parasite did indeed turn her into a sex-hungry maniac, and she was having affairs with several men in Starliner Towers, including Nicholas Tudor, an unpleasant man with or without bug. Either way, though Hobbs was trying to eradicate his creation in the first few scenes of the movie, it had a leg-up on him and is already spreading like wildfire through the towers. Will the good doctor be able to stop the bug before it spreads out into the rest of the Great White North?

That sly, come-hither stare... it's VD!

That sly, come-hither stare… it’s VD!

This movie is fantastic. At times it looks like a schlocky, low-budget horror movie, but there’s a lot more going on here than shock and gore. Cronenberg is saying something about middle-class, “civilized,” thinking society and its repression of our animal instincts and urges. Modern medicine is perhaps one of the most prominent and important achievements of human culture, and is something that separates man from beast. What if we used it to revert back to the animals we once were, before our giant brains got in the way? What if we gave in to those base urges that we’re all dressing up in ties and pantyhose? Well, the incubation phase doesn’t look much fun, but maybe a world full of sex-zombies wouldn’t be so bad? At least you wouldn’t have to work that 9-5!


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