Release Date(s)1975 (September 15, 2020)
Studio(s)Cinepix Film Properties/Trans American Films/Lionsgate (Vestron Video Collector’s Series)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: A-
With two short films and two science fiction films to his name, David Cronenberg decided to make his first horror film with Shivers, which premiered in the US in 1975 as They Came from Within. Though it was the most profitable Canadian film released outside of its home country at the time, it also stirred up controversy at home due to its content. Off to a rousing start, Cronenberg would go on to push the envelope in the horror genre repeatedly for the next couple of decades.
The luxury apartment complex Starliner Towers finds itself under threat from an unknown and invasive alien species. These small, slug-like creatures begin to nest themselves within human beings, driving them to spread through sexual activity. A concerned doctor (Paul Hampton) and his nurse and girlfriend (Lynn Lowry) find themselves trapped inside the complex when this occurs. The creatures slowly multiply from one tenant to the next, including an estranged married couple (Susan Petrie and Alan Migicovsky), a lonely single woman (Barbara Steele), and a slew of others. The chances of anyone getting out of the building without being infected are slim.
Shivers isn’t merely a horror film, much like the rest of Cronenberg’s genre work. The alien species preys upon human sexuality in a way that also challenges societal mores. It’s akin to films like Night of the Living Dead, wherein a new society devours the current. In this instance, it’s a sexually-liberated group of people who infect each other, which allows them to let go of their fears of disease and judgment. This is not limited to everyday, so-called “normal” people either. The aliens ignore age, race, and orientation. Though set up within a straightforward horror framework that was marketed as nothing more than exploitation, it goes deeper than that.
To be fair, the film is far from flawless. After all, it was Cronenberg’s first effort at a more mainstream property, and it doesn’t feel as ironed out or look as slick as his latter efforts. The dialogue is sometimes clunky, as are several of the cuts. However, the idea is so strong and executed well enough that its lesser qualities can be overlooked. Shivers was also Cronenberg’s first foray into what would become known as “body horror,” a term that he would become forever synonymous with.
Vestron Video debuts Shivers on Blu-ray in the US for the first time in its uncut version. The presentation appears to be taken from the same master that was used for Arrow Video’s Region B Blu-ray release in 2014. It’s incredibly similar outside of a minor contrast adjustment. The encode also appears to not be quite as tight as the Arrow version. To be fair, both presentations come from the same restoration performed by the Toronto International Film Festival. Judging by the crushed blacks and sometimes blown out whites, not to mention overall clarity, it’s clearly print-sourced. That said, it’s still a fine presentation ripe with good saturation, including the variety of colors in and around the various Starliner-based locations.
The audio is included in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English, Spanish, and English SDH. It’s a relatively flat track with decent dialogue reproduction, and only occasional awkward overdubbing. The library music score put together by Ivan Reitman is very effective, but doesn’t always mix well with the other elements. Sound effects are a tad weak as well. Leftover damage is limited to mild hiss and a couple of pops during the end credits.
The following extras are also included:
- Audio Commentary with David Cronenberg and Chris Alexander
- Audio Commentary with Don Carmody and Chris Alexander
- Mind Over Matter with Writer/Director David Cronenberg (HD – 12:01)
- Good Night Nurse with Actress Lynn Lowry (HD – 16:54)
- Outside and Within with Special Make-Up & Creature Effects Creator Joe Blasco (HD – 12:55)
- Celebrating Cinepix: The Legacy of John Dunning (HD – 10:05)
- Archival 1998 David Cronenberg Interview (SD – 21:16)
- Still Gallery and Optional Archival Audio Interview with John Dunning (HD – 88 in all – 8:37)
- Still Gallery (HD – 88 in all – 8:01)
- Theatrical Trailers for Shivers and They Came from Within (HD – 3:01)
- TV Spot for They Came from Within (HD – 1:03)
- Radio Spots for They Came from Within (HD – 3 in all – 2:17)
In the first audio commentary, David Cronenberg has a cold, but perseveres, having not seen the film in a long time. He and Chris Alexander openly discuss it while watching it, with Chris occasionally asking questions. The second, with producer Don Carmody, is much more of a Q&A session, but just as educational as Don provides additional details about the making of the film from a different angle. Mind Over Matter is a new interview with Cronenberg in which he talks about a lot of the same subjects as the commentary, but it’s nice to see him healthy and enthusiastic to talk about them. Good Night Nurse features a new interview with Lynn Lowry in which she talks about how she got involved with the project, working with Cronenberg, enjoying her role, her feelings on being nude for the film, and her thoughts on the ending. Outside and Within features an interview with Joe Blasco in which he talks about creating the make-up effects for the film, doing the film because of Barbara Steele, turning down Night of the Living Dead, and working with Cronenberg. Celebrating Cinepix is a featurette dedicated to discussing the career of John Dunning with his son Greg Dunning. The archival interview with David Cronenberg comes from the original 1998 DVD of the film from Image Entertainment. The audio interview with John Dunning was recorded in 2011 before his passing by Kier-la Janisse and Matthew Rankin. Also included in the package is a paper insert with a Digital code.
Several overseas Blu-ray releases contain a few additional extras that haven’t been ported over. These include the Via Vision release in Australia which includes an introduction to the film by David Cronenberg and an episode of the TV series On Screen! from 2008; the Arrow Video release in the UK that features the documentary Parasite Memories: The Making of Shivers and the video essay From Stereo to Video; and the NSM Records release in Austria which includes the R-rated and Super 8 versions of the film, as well as the video essay Creative Cancer and the New Flesh.
Long out of print on disc in the US, it’s nice to finally have David Cronenberg’s Shivers on Blu-ray with a nice presentation and a healthy assortment of extras from Vestron Video and Red Shirt Pictures.
- Tim Salmons