Slide-show photography of Montreal’s Starliner Towers is immediately unnerving despite being pictures of the swanky tennis court and delicatessen. It could be the wryly monotone instructional video announcer and how it culminates with the medical examiner on the premises. David Cronenberg germinates the groundwork for the epidemic thunderclap ahead with those images and how the doorman’s gun is “just an advertising gimmick.”
He doesn’t splurge any time before the hulking Dr. Hobbes brutally strangles a schoolgirl before defrocking her blouse and vivisecting her stomach. It is inscrutably outre and putrid and only Cronenberg could funnel the virus into his own psychosexual depravity. ‘Shivers’ is an unapologetically prickly, wildly titillating cautionary tale about the proliferation of venereal diseases and panic can be communicable.
Since this is a greenhorn Canadian production, the ingenue acting is intermittently callow. Normally the pseudo-scientific jargon about a parasite supplanting the functions of an organ would be a loquacious lull in a body horror film but Cronenberg fully enraptures the audience in the hypothetical pathophysiology and the plight of Nick Tudor (Alan Migicovsky), an office drone, who is hemorrhaging inexplicably.
The potshot about Nick retching a slug onto an elderly woman’s umbrella, is a glance into Cronenberg’s rakish facetiousness. From the zenithal tier of the apartment complex to the laundry room in the basement, Cronenberg ossifies the strata upon which the microorganisms begin to interlope.
The bladder effects of Nick’s abdomen cysts are uncannily repulsive. Honestly, the film might’ve been more consternation-inducing if the slithering invaders were incorporeal and could’ve been paranoid hallucinations. The eel swimming in the foreground of a tank during a conversation is eerily symbolic about the phallic mutants and engorged hormones. Due to the solitude of the high-rise, the film replicates the claustrophobia of the farmhouse in ‘Night of the Living Dead’.