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SHIVERS (aka: THE PARASITE MURDERS) (director/writer: David Cronenberg; cinematographer: Robert Saad; editor: Patrick Dodd; music: Ivan Reitman; cast: Paul Hampton (Dr. Roger St Luc), Joe Silver (Dr. Rollo Linski), Lynn Lowry (Nurse Forsythe), Allan Kolman (Nicholas Tudor), Susan Petrie (Janine Tudor), Barbara Steele (Betts), Ronald Mlodzik (Merrick), Wally Martin (Doorman), Camil Ducharme (Mr. Guilbault), Hanka Posnanska (Mrs. Guilbault), Joan Blackman (Elevator mother), Kirsten Bishop (Elevator daughter), Fred Doederlein (Emil Hobbes), Kathy Graham (Annabelle Brown), Vlasta Vrana (Kresimer Sviben), Silvie Debois (Benda Sviben); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Ivan Reitman; Anchor Bay Entertainment/Image Entertainment; 1975-Canada)
“Cronenberg shows his stuff as an inventive auteur.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Canadian David Cronenberg’s (“Rabid”/”The Brood”/”Videodrome”) first venture as a director of commercial feature films is an intoxicating graphic sexy, bloody and violent horror film that is more luridly entertaining than meaningful. In America it was released by AIP under the title They Came from Within. It comes with a muddled message that sounds a warning against a permissive society but, on the other hand, it might just be Cronenberg’s bizarre black humor taking potshots at the modern human condition in a misanthropic way.

It’s set in the Starliner Towers, a luxury apartment complex on an island a few miles outside of Montreal. The film opens to a slide show advertising the benefits of residing in the Starliner. A young couple, Mr. and Mrs. Sviben (Vlasta Vrana and Silvie Debois), take the bait offered by building manager Merrick and immediately move into their furnished dream apartment. Coinciding with the Sviben’s being floored by the state-of-the-art hi-rise building, the film cuts to elderly madman research scientist Dr. Hobbes (Fred Doederlein) attacking in another apartment his 19-year-old girlfriend/protégé, Annabelle (Kathy Graham), and fatally cutting her up with a scalpel and then slitting his own throat with the same scalpel.

We learn from Hobbes’s partner, Dr. Rollo Linski (Joe Silver), that Hobbes was a lousy teacher but excelled at getting grants to finance his research. He believed “man is an animal who thinks too much and doesn’t have enough guts to act on his impulses.” Hobbes was using Annabelle as a human guinea pig for a parasite experiment (a blend of aphrodisiac and venereal disease appearing as a penislike slug) that will make her free without sexual inhibitions. When the prof realizes the experiment has gone wrong, he finds it necessary to kill in order to stop the out-of-control parasite from spreading. Unfortunately, Annabelle had an affair with married neighbor Nick Tudor (Allan Kolman) and through him the parasite will spread throughout the building. It’s up to the building’s clinic head, Dr. Roger St Luc (Paul Hampton), and his naturally hot nurse Forsythe (Lynn Lowry), to bring things under control in the building. But soon the slimy parasite has overtaken the entire building population and everyone goes sexually berserk and turns into zombies desiring only carnal pleasures.

It was silly fun, offering the viewers a disgusting crawling parasite, madcap and repulsive sex scenes, and enough perversity to turn on the repressed plastic characters featured as the building residents. Horror scream maven Barbara Steele has a slug creep up between her legs as she takes a bath and then has the uncontrollable hots for cute Mrs. Tudor (Susan Petrie).

Despite its goofiness, Cronenberg shows his stuff as an inventive auteur and the result is a superior horror film told as if it were a sexual fantasy. It reminds me of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.

REVIEWED ON 9/11/2004 GRADE: B +

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”