The first time I watched Shivers was when it premiered on the Canadian TV station SCREAM back in 2001. Each night the channel would play older horror films, and Shivers was one of the ones I recorded on VHS to watch at a later date. Having no idea what the movie was about, I went in completely blind, and I can tell you the experience was something that stuck with me. It was like watching a zombie film, but instead of the zombies trying to eat you, they were trying to fuck you. Director David Cronenberg isn’t one to hold back when it comes to controversial themes and Shivers isn’t shy and will do plenty to shock you. Something else that will shock you is seeing this released on Blu-ray from Vestron Video at a great price. Previously, the Vestron label was priced super high and scared off plenty of customers. Now, with the release of Shivers (Little Monsters is also out from Vestron), we are getting a pretty fantastic Blu-ray at an amazing price. Don’t believe me? Read on to see why…
Shivers is David Cronenberg’s first big film having previously written and directed two arthouse films: Stereo (Tile 3B of a CAEE Educational Mosaic) and Crimes of the Future. Released in 1975 by Canadian film company Cinépix, the movie would go on to become the most profitable Canadian film of its time despite the government stepping in and putting a big ole’ question mark on whether this film should be considered art or not. Whether a movie about apartment tenants infected by a parasite that drives them sexually mad can truly be considered art is up for debate; what I can say is the flick certainly entertains.
If you’ve never heard of Shivers before and want to know what it’s about, let me enlighten you with a quick plot breakdown. The film takes place on an island in Montreal (filmed on the real Nuns’ Island) where an apartment complex is having some issues. A couple of dead people have been found in a room and one of them is a young woman with her stomach cut open and the other is a doctor with his throat slashed. What happened? Well, it seems the woman was infected with a parasite and the doctor was trying to correct his mistakes but didn’t take into account that the young woman was a bit of a player and was sleeping with a bunch of the tenants. The parasite has now spread to different hosts and these hosts are now in the process of spreading it further through the act of sexual feelings and sexual healings. It’s up to the doctor on-site to maintain the outbreak, but his efforts are being thwarted constantly by the promise of sex with all sorts of individuals, be they hot young men and women, old people, and yes, even children. This shit is insane!
As you can tell, Shivers is a film that would easily offend plenty of people, but that seems to be the point with most of Cronenberg’s films. He doesn’t hold back and he always goes balls to the wall with his insane stories. The movie does have a few problems such as pacing issues and unnecessary scenes involving another doctor (Joe Silver and his deep sexy voice) who is slowly making his way to the apartment complex. Most of the scenes lead nowhere and look to be inserted only to pad the runtime. And even though the film is downright weird enough, I feel that Cronenberg could have gone even further if he was allowed. This parasite is driving people sexually mad, yet all they tend to do is smash faces and rub each other’s clothed bodies. Although, come to think of it, going crazier might have shifted this movie into some weird softcore porn territory and given the situation of who lives in the apartment building no one would want that (see Shining Sex for Jess Franco going further –ed.).
Vestron Video is finally back with Shivers, which makes this release their 18th on Blu-ray. Shivers has been released on Blu-ray previously but only overseas. This release marks it’s North American debut. The video transfer is almost on par with the Arrow Video Blu, with the latter having better grain representation and slight colour differences. Both releases still have a lot of blown-out whites. You can check out our screenshot comparisons of the two releases to see for yourself.
Audio is presented in English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio, and there is, unfortunately, a bit of hiss during loud moments such as screams or Joe Silver’s deep velvety voice. Most of the hissing could be inherent due to the film’s limited budget, but without having the Arrow release in front of me it’s hard to say whether they are present in that release as well.
Vestron’s release boasts a few new interviews along with some older features. The new interview with David Cronenberg runs 12-mins and goes over him getting the film made, almost moving to Hollywood, and the result of one bad review almost killing his career. Next, we have a 17-min interview with Lynn Lowry who goes over her time shooting different scenes, especially the one where she stabs Cronenberg in the shoulder and missing the safety pad. There are also two new interviews with special effects creator Joe Blasco and son of Cinépix founder Greg Dunning. Rounding out new features are two new audio commentaries with David Cronenberg and co-producer Don Carmody.
NEW Audio Commentary with Writer-Director David Cronenberg
NEW Audio commentary with Co-Producer Don Carmody
NEW “Mind Over Matter” – An Interview with Writer-Director David Cronenberg (HD; 12:01)
NEW “Good Night Nurse” – An Interview with Actress Lynn Lowry (HD; 16:54)
NEW “Outside and Within” – An Interview with Special Make-Up Effects Creator Joe Blasco (HD; 12:55)
NEW “Celebrating Cinépix” – An Interview with Greg Dunning (HD; 10:05)
Archival 1998 David Cronenberg Interview (unrestored HD; 21:16)
Still Gallery with Optional Archival Audio Interview with Executive Producer John Dunning (8:37)
Still gallery (no chapter breaks; 8:01)
Theatrical Trailers (unrestored HD; 3:01)
TV Spot (unrestored HD; 1:03)
Radio Spots (2:17)
Shivers won’t be for everyone and I can say that with absolute certainty. I’m middle of the road when it comes to the film. I think Cronenberg did a great job, but the movie is not without its problems. Nevertheless, if you are a fan and are craving the film on Blu-ray and you passed on the Arrow Video release, the Vestron Video Blu-ray is the perfect chance to finally pick it up for a fantastic price.