Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 6th, 2014
BluRay released: October 13th, 2014
Approximate running times: 87 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B / Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £15.99 (UK)
Shivers is also known under these titles, They Came from Within and Orgy of the Blood Parasites.
By the time that David Cronenberg directed Shivers. He had already directed a few short films, worked extensively for Canadian television and had feature length albeit experimental films, Stereo and Crimes of the Future, under his belt. And with that being said, Shivers is widely regarded as the launching point for ‘Body Horror’ a type of cinema his name has since become synonymous with.
Far too many of modern horror films are one dimensional and content to shock the viewer with grotesque imagery. This by the numbers approach to the genre often leads to its demise, until another innovative film or filmmaker comes along and gives the genre a much needed shot in the arm. Fortunately for fans of horror cinema there are filmmakers like Cronenberg who are going to take you to places you have never before.
Content wise, Shivers is a first rate example of how to make a riveting and entertaining horror film that no matter how many times you revisit it, it does not lose any of its potency. A prime reason why this film works so well is because of the things which Cronenberg brings to the table and not the things that one would normally expect from a horror film. He would inject into the Shivers many of themes which he would later on in his career expand upon.
The parasite’s wreaking havoc in this film were created by a doctor who is trying to come up with a way to replace damage organs. From there the apartment building where the bulk of the film takes place becomes ground zero for the infestation when the doctor takes one of his patients there and tries to remove a parasite.
This initial setup does a great job setting into motion the mayhem and blood lust that ensues. And though the characters are never fully fleshed out, this ultimately does not prove to be a problem since it is the main attraction is the parasites.
Visually the film features many standout moments like that aforementioned moment where the doctor responsible for creating the parasite removes one from a patient and the commits suicide. Other standout moments include a scene where a woman taking a bath is attacked by a parasite that comes up through the drain in the tub. And last but not least, this film’s jaw dropping finale is another superb moment.
From a production stand point the visuals are strong throughout and pacing is never an issue. When it comes to gore there is an ample amount of gore and sexuality on display. And without a doubt the most surprising area of this film is how effect the special effects are. With a scene where parasite explode out of a man’s chest being the most memorable moment in regards to special effects.
When it comes to the performances one would be hard pressed to fault any of the cast who are enthusiastic in their respective roles. The main draw performance wise is that is features two actress who well known for working in the horror genre, Lynn Lowry (The Crazies) and Barbra Steele (The Pit and the Pendulum, Nightmare Castle). It is Steele’s character that is attacked while trying to take a bath.
Where far too many filmmakers falter due to limited resources and/or their lack of experience with an actual film. This is not the case for Cronenberg, who creates an utterly tangible world with Shivers, making the end result one of the most satisfying horror film debuts.
Shivers comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. For this release a new high definition digital transfer was supervised and approved by David Cronenberg. Colors look nicely saturated, black and contrast levels look very good throughout and details generally look crisp. There are no issues with DNR or compression and grain looks natural. Needless to say this release is a marked improvement over all previous releases of this film.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English and removable English SDH subtitles have also been included. The audio is in great shape, dialog always sounds clear, everything sounds balanced and robust when its needs too.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (1 minute 27 seconds – 1.33:1 aspect ratio 1080 Progressive, the title sequence without titles (2 minutes 24 seconds -1080 Progressive Widescreen), ‘On Screen!’ – An episode of the Canadian television program which documents the release history of Shivers (47 minutes 37 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) with comments about the film from director David Cronenberg, co-producer Don Carmody, executive producer John Dunning, Alfred Pariser & Andre Link, author’s Caelum Vatnsdal (They Came from Within: A History of Canadian Horror Cinema) and Peter Morris (David Cronenberg: A Delicate Balance), film critic Jason Anderson, filmmaker Ivan Reitman, actor Allan Kolman, actress Lynn Lowry, creatures creator / special makeup artist Joe Blasco, a video essay with Caelum Vatnsdal titled ‘Stereo to Video’ (26 minutes 21 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) who discusses all of Cronenberg’s films up to VideoDrome and a documentary titled ‘Parasite Memories: The Making of Shivers’ (42 minutes 52 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) with comments from Joe Blasco, Lynn Lowry, author / critic Kier-La Janisse, Allan Kolman and actress Barbra Steele.
The video essay with Caelum Vatnsdal is a fantastic introduction for those who are just getting into the film of David Cronenberg. Topics discussed in ‘On Screen!’ include how difficult it was to raise the money needed to make this film and how it took almost two years before filming even began, Cronenberg talks about his on the job training as this was his first film with an actual crew, how the producers went behind Cronenberg’s back and asked Johnathan Demme if he was interested in directing this film, special effects and designing the parasite creatures, the film’s main location and how several of the tenants allowed them to use their furnished apartments, the cast, what it was like to work with Cronenberg, Canadian censorship, the film’s unusual subject matter and everyone’s thoughts on the final product.
Topics discussed by Barbra Steele in the extra titled ‘Parasite Memories: The Making of Shivers’, include her first encounter with Cronenberg and how she became involved in the film, her thoughts on portraying sinister characters, her approach to acting and working with Cronenberg. Though there is some information that is also covered in the extra titled ‘On Screen!’ the new documentary gives an updated perspective from those involved and also contains a lot of different information about this production from those who worked on this film.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible covert art option and a forty eight page booklet with cast & crew info, three articles / essays on the film, the first one titled ‘Everything is Sexual: The Medical Horror in David Cronenberg’s Shivers’ written by Paul Corupe, the second one titled ‘You Should Know How Bad This Film is, After All, You Paid for It’ written by Robert FulFord and the third one titled ‘It’ll Bug You’ written by Stephen Chesley. Other content is this booklet include an excerpt from ‘Cronenberg on Cronenberg’ titled ‘Showing the Unshowable’ and information about the transfer. Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall Arrow Video gives Shivers its most impressive home video release, highly recommended.
Comments from Arrow Video regarding the missing 15 seconds of footage.
“We are currently looking into this issue and hope to have an update very soon. Just to clarify, our release of Shivers contains a new restoration personally supervised and approved by Director David Cronenberg and which was produced by Tiff Cinematheque Quebec at Technicolor in 2013.
We are unsure as to the reasons why part of Shivers appears to have been shortened except that it doesn’t appear to be the results of any conscious act of censorship, as many similar scenes would have been removed as well if that were the case. It may have been Cronenberg’s decision to excise this material due to damage to the original materials used, but at this point that’s only speculation on our part.
Unlike Zombie Flesh Eaters, this isn’t the result of an authoring or encoding error, as there is nothing technically wrong with our disc. Unlike many of our releases, we weren’t in any way involved with the restoration of this film, so we’re having to direct our questions to those who oversaw it. Just to reiterate, we are making enquiries to all the parties involved and hope to have a definitive answer to this very soon.”