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David Cronenberg
Paul Hampton, Joe Silver, Lynn Lowry
Writing Credits:
David Cronenberg

The residents of a suburban high-rise apartment building are being infected by a strain of parasites that turn them into mindless, sex-crazed fiends out to infect others by the slightest sexual contact.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 88 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 9/15/2020

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director David Cronenberg
• Audio Commentary with Co-Producer Don Carmody
• “Mind Over Matter” Featurette
• “Good Night Nurse” Featurette
• “Outside and Within” Featurette
• “Celebrating Cinepix” Featurette
• Archival 1998 David Cronenberg Interview
• Still Gallery with Optional Audio Interview
• Trailers,TV Spot & Radio Spot


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-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
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-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Shivers [Blu-Ray] (1975)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 28, 2020)

With 1975’s Shivers, we find the first commercial feature from noted cult director David Cronenberg. Like his better-known later efforts, this one brings a grotesque mix of horror and sci-fi.

Set on an island near Montreal, we meet the inhabitants of the deluxe Starliner Tower apartment complex. Dr. Hobbes (Fred Doederlein) experiments with parasites that increase human desire toward sex and violence.

Though Hobbes kills himself and uses acid to destroy the body of his subject (Cathy Graham), the parasites nonetheless escape and infiltrate the Starliner. The uninfected attempt to avoid this contamination and stop its spread.

While Cronenberg made a varied catalog of films over his career, a lot focused on themes of bodies that became infected and/or mutilated in a variety of ways. Even his commercial – and perhaps creative – apex with 1986’sThe Fly concentrates heavily on that notion.

If you want to find hints of Cronenberg’s talent and promise in Shivers, you seem likely to walk away disappointed. Amateurish, clumsy and often downright silly, the film displays few indications of a good director at work.

Though I can’t blame Cronenberg for all of the issues found in Shivers, as a lot of problems revolve around the thoroughly awful cast. Each and every performance here fails, as the actors run the gamut from “flat and dull” to “shrill and histrionic”, with nothing in between those poles.

Given that Shivers enjoyed a low budget and a talent pool limited to those who lived in/around Montreal, one presumes, perhaps it shouldn’t surprise that the film suffers from such weak acting. Nonetheless, the inability of the cast members to portray engaging, believable humans hamstrings the movie in a severe way.

Of course, few go to horror films to enjoy stellar performances, so if Cronenberg managed a strong story and a brisk pace, these issues may matter less. Unfortunately, Shivers crawls through its first act and it offers little to interest the audience for much of its opening half.

Shivers sets up the plot and lets us get to know the inhabitants of the Starliner, but it does so in the least interesting way possible. Again, the amateurish performances don’t help, but as written, the film suffers from bland, boring roles, so I can’t blame the actors entirely.

Cronenberg’s screenplay ensures we’re stuck with forgettable nonsense through the film’s first half, and its near-complete lack of drama makes it tough for us to care when the horror finally develops. So much of the movie seems sluggish and blah that a rebound becomes difficult.

When Cronenberg Goes Gross and lets those nasty parasites do their thing, Shivers does manage some disgusting charms. Whether earned or not, the movie creates a nasty vibe that gives the tale some impact.

Unfortunately, this seems like too little, too late, and our inherent lack of interest in the characters diminishes any potential power. If the victims don’t matter to us, it becomes more difficult to care, and Cronenberg doesn’t create an intriguing enough set of circumstances to overcome these issues.

The movie’s themes do show potential, and one could argue the infected people here foreshadow the more aggressive zombies we’d see in the 21st century. None of these factors become sufficient to make Shivers anything more than a dull, amateurish film, though.

The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus B+

Shivers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. A low-budget project from the mid-70s, the image showed its roots.

IMDB claims Shivers used 35mm stock, and perhaps that’s true. However, it sure looks like 16mm to me.

Whatever the case, sharpness tended to seem decent but inconsistent. Close-ups offered fairly good delineation, but anything wider leaned to the soft side. This left an overall impression of passable clarity and not much better.

The image lacked shimmering, jagged edges or edge haloes. Outside of a couple specks. source flaws failed to create any distractions, and grain remained natural, without signs of digital noise reduction.

Colors came across as fairly dull. The movie pushed toward a mix of yellows, blues and greens, all of which tended to seem somewhat bland.

Black levels usually stayed moderately deep and dense, while shadow detail showed reasonable consistency, albeit a bit murky at times. Ultimately, Shivers provided an acceptable visual presentation given the limitations of the source.

As for the DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack of Shivers, it was perfectly adequate for its era but not much better than that. Speech sounded intelligible and clear, though the lines sometimes suffered from a somewhat boxy sound.

The movie offered a moody score, and these elements came across reasonably well. While the music lacked great range, it seemed clear enough.

The effects represented the source elements in a competent manner. These elements offered reasonable accuracy without great punch. All of this was good enough for an age-adjusted “C+“.

A nice array of extras appear on the disc, and we find two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from writer/director David Cronenberg. Along with moderator Chris Alexander, the filmmaker looks at story/characters, challenges of his first commercial feature, cast and performances, sets and locations, effects, music, editing and photography, and related domains.

We get a pretty solid chat here, as the commentary touches on a nice array of topics. Cronenberg brings plenty of insights, and Alexander ensures the track moves at a nice pace. This becomes a satisfying discussion.

For the second commentary, we hear from co-prpducer Don Carmody. Also along with Alexander as moderator, Carmody provides his own running, screen-specific view of his work on Shivers as well as other aspects of his career.

This makes Carmody’s chat a more general discussion than Cronenberg’s, and this makes it less compelling. Carmody seems likable and he gives us a decent take on matters, but the track feels less informative than I’d like.

As we shift to video features, we launch with Mind Over Matter, a new 12-minute, one-second interview with Cronenberg. He discusses the movie’s push into production, aspects of the shoot, and the flick’s legacy. A little of this repeats the material from the commentary, but Cronenberg finds enough new content to make “Mind” worth a look.

Good Night Nurse brings a 16-minute, 54-second chat with actor Lynn Lowry. She covers how she came onto the film as well as her experiences during the production and her later career. Lowry turns this into a winning discussion.

With Outsde and Within, we discover a 12-minute, 55-second interview with special makeup effects creator Joe Blasco. He looks at what led him to Shivers and his creations for the flick. Blasco brings a fun glimpse of his low-budget techniques.

Celebrating Cinepix runs 10 minutes, five seconds and features producer’s son Greg Dunning. Dunning discusses the career of his father John in this informative piece.

Next comes an Archival 1998 David Cronenberg Interview. In this 21-minute, 16-second piece, he examines a mix of topics related to Shivers and its production. Despite the inevitable repetition, we get a decent array of new material.

Presented as a running eight-minute, one-second reel, we get a Still Gallery that brings 87images. These mix movie images, shots from the production and advertisements/video covers.

The “Gallery” also can be viewed with or without a circa 2011 interview with executive producer John Dunning, as he tells us about aspects of his career. Recorded shortly before Dunning’s death, this becomes a fairly informative piece.

Note that the version with the interview lasts 36 seconds longer to accommodate an opening text crawl to explain its origins.

The disc ends with two trailers, one TV spot and three radio spots.

If made by the David Cronenberg of 1985, Shivers might become an intriguing horror tale. Unfortunately, the David Cronenberg of 1975 lacked the same level of skill, so the film winds up as a slow, amateurish dud. The Blu-ray brings dated but decent picture and audio along with a good set of supplements. Watch Shivers if you want to sneak a peek at early Cronenberg, but don’t expect a good movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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