Shivers (1975 film)  

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"Roger, I had a very disturbing dream last night. In this dream I found myself making love to a strange man. Only I'm having trouble you see, because he's old... and dying... and he smells bad, and I find him repulsive. But then he tells me that everything is erotic, that everything is sexual. You know what I mean? He tells me that even old flesh is erotic flesh. That disease is the love of two alien kinds of creatures for each other. That even dying is an act of eroticism. That talking is sexual. That breathing is sexual. That even to physically exist is sexual. And I believe him, and we make love beautifully."

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Shivers (aka The Parasite Murders, They Came from Within, and Frissons for the French-Canadian distribution) is a 1975 Canadian science fiction body horror film written and directed by David Cronenberg. The original shooting title was Orgy of the Blood Parasites.



Dr. Emil Hobbes is conducting unorthodox experiments with parasites for use in transplants. He believes that humanity has become over-rational and lost contact with its flesh and its instincts, so the effects of the alien organism he actually develops is a combination of aphrodisiac and venereal disease. Once implanted, it causes uncontrollable sexual desire in the host.

Hobbes implants the parasites in his teen-aged mistress, who promiscuously spreads them throughout the ultra-modern apartment building outside Montreal where they live. Hobbes, unable to undo the damage he caused, kills his mistress and then commits suicide. The police are called and the crime looks to be open and shut.

As the story develops, one of Hobbes' sexual partners begins to feel ill and returns from work. Here we see the parasite emerge from its host and escape into the building where it emerges and attacks a number of people. The pace of the story quickens when the community's resident physician, Roger St. Luc, uncovers some of the research that Hobbes had been working on. St. Luc encounters an elderly resident who has been attacked and burned by the parasite. St. Luc, along with his assistant and girlfriend, Nurse Forsythe, move the elderly residents to their room. They attempt to stop the parasite infestation before it overwhelms the city's population.

Instructing the elderly couple to wait and lock themselves in, St. Luc continues to the basement where the residents told him they had disposed of the parasite. St. Luc is attacked by a caretaker but manages to defeat him by bashing in his skull. Forsythe leaves the safety of the elderly residents' room and continues after St. Luc, where she is attacked, but is rescued by St. Luc. Meanwhile, upstairs it is clear that the parasite has spread the infection as more and more of the residents start to act out. The scene closes with the elderly couple's apartment broken into by the infected. Downstairs the security guard is infected and the auctioneer showing the apartment is slowly entrapping other unsuspecting guests.

St. Luc escapes to the parking garage where Forsythe is attacked by an infected resident. St. Luc rescues her and takes her to his car. However, as they attempt to crash through the gate to the parking garage another car rams them. St. Luc helps Forsythe free and they escape to a remote area in the building. At this stage Forsythe starts to act out, showing that she too has become infected. St. Luc is forced to leave her and forge on to escape but at every turn he is trapped. Eventually he finds himself trapped in the swimming pool and he is attacked and eventually infected by Forsythe.

The closing scene is the residents happily exiting the residential block in their cars. The viewer is left to believe that Hobbes' plan to infect the world is underway.


  • Paul Hampton as Roger St. Luc
  • Joe Silver as Rollo Linsky
  • Lynn Lowry as Nurse Forsythe
  • Alan Migicovsky as Nicholas Tudor
  • Susan Petrie as Janine Tudor
  • Barbara Steele as Betts
  • Ronald Mlodzik as Merrick
  • Barry Boldero as Det. Heller
  • Camil Ducharme as Mr. Guilbault
  • Hanka Posnanska as Mrs. Guilbault
  • Wally Martin as Doorman
  • Vlasta Vrána as Kresimer Sviben
  • Silvie Debois as Benda Sviben


The film's chaotic structure mirrors the collapse of residential life in the apartment block. The opening shows a young couple being welcomed as residents to the tower block, intercut with Dr Hobbes murdering his adolescent mistress by strangling her, then cutting open her stomach and pouring acid into her body to kill the parasites, and then cutting his own throat. Partway into the story, the audience learn the reason for Hobbes's actions; most of Shivers consists of social set piece tableaux showing the sexual promiscuity that spreads the parasites to the other residents. Cronenberg said he identified with the residents after they were infected; and shows the swinging sterility of "normal" life mercilessly caricatured through the characterization of the bland, rich, young professionals inhabiting the apartment block, and the hard-sell estate agent's sales pitch from Merrick, which accompanies the opening titles.

Shivers was Cronenberg's first feature film, and was the most profitable Canadian film made to date in 1975, but was so controversial that the Canadian parliament debated its social and artistic value and effect upon society, because of objections to its sexual and violent content. The film was shot on Nuns' Island in Montreal, with a shooting schedule of fifteen days.


The film was released theatrically in the United States by Trans American Films in July 1976. The film was released on DVD by Image Entertainment on September 16, 1998 and is currently out of print. It was also released in Canada on a French dub-only DVD titled Frissons on April 23, 2002 by Christal Films (from their earlier 1996 VHS release).


On its initial release, Shivers was not a positively received film. Of a selection of 28 reviews from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium and France, 16 reviews are negative, six were positive and the rest could be classified as neutral. From the negative reviews, 12 of the 16 negative reviews are very negative while three of the six positive reviews were very positive.

Canadian journalist Robert Fulford, writing as "Marshall Delaney", decried the content of Shivers in the pages of the national magazine Saturday Night. Since Cronenberg's film was partially financed by the taxpayer-funded Canadian Film Development Corporation (later known as Telefilm Canada), Fulford headlined the article "You Should Know How Bad This Movie Is, You Paid For It." He called it "crammed with blood, violence and depraved sex" and "the most repulsive movie I've ever seen." Not only did this high-profile attack make it more difficult for Cronenberg to obtain funding for his subsequent movies, but Cronenberg later said Fulford's article also resulted in him being kicked out of his apartment in Toronto due to his landlord's inclusion of a "morality clause" in the lease. Other Canadian critics gave the film negative reviews, such as Martin Knelman in the Toronto Globe and Mail and Dane Larnken in the Montreal Gazette.

Shivers has received mostly positive retrospective reviews, holding an 86% approval rating of 84% on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. One review that put both the film and David Cronenberg on American radar was a respectful one by Roger Ebert, who noted that he expected a dismal exploitation film since Shivers was part of a double-bill with the faux-snuff film Snuff, but instead was impressed by a lot of the film and ended up giving it a 2 and 1/2 star rating. Cronenberg won the award for Best Director at the 1975 Sitges Film Festival.

In popular culture

The Rick and Morty episode "Rick Potion No. 9" from season one of the series is loosely premised on Cronenberg's Shivers, and the creatures in the episode are even called "Cronenbergs" as a sort of homage.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Shivers (1975 film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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