By Jerome Reuter
It goes without saying that David Cronenberg is the master of body horror. A good amount of his films deal with the manipulation of flesh, and have several underlying themes reflecting the world we live in. His 1975 directorial debut Shivers, is one of them. Although panned by several critics upon release, it’s gained a highly respected following over the years. In my opinion, it’s a brilliant satire of the sexual revolution, and the outbreak of the HIV virus. When It Follows was released not to long ago, it was easy to see that this film had a huge influence on it.
Our story takes place on an island, within the walls of a housing complex. Cronenberg keeps the terror to a confined location, much like a scientist holds an experiment in a petri dish. Within this experiment of horror, we’re introduced to a bizarre outbreak. One that causes its victims engage in bizarre, hedonistic behavior. This disease is spread through worms that penetrate their victims, infecting them with a viscous sexual appetite. The use of these worms is actually quite ingenious. In a movie where sex is the definitive topic, this is the best way to substitute scenes that would normally involve penetration.
The atmosphere in this one is really well put together, and completely nihilistic. As the film progresses, we get the understanding that there is no solution to this epidemic, and we’re all damned. Beneath the surface this is a cautionary tale, one that warns that hedonism will bring about our self-destruction. This is a message that we could learn from, even today. Since this film release Cronenberg has continued to hold a mirror to the world we live in, and the reflection is not always a pretty one.