Back Add a Comment Share:
Facebook Button

Feature


Initially reviled in its native land (some critics took exception to the fact the film was largely funded by the Canadian taxpayer), Shivers is an intensely claustrophobic, subversive masterpiece and an essential entry in the oeuvre of one of the horror genre’s most gifted auteurs. Some 40 years after its release, it still retains its power to shock.
 
Starliner Island is an idyllic community. Cut off from the rest of the world, the luxury apartment block affords its occupants the chance to escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city. But this isolation is to prove fatal when a new breed of parasite – a combination of aphrodisiac and venereal disease which arouses sexual aggression in its hosts – is let loose in the building, resulting in an orgy terror and mayhem.
 
Known under a host of alternate titles such as The Parasite Murders and They Came From Within!, Shivers is the startling debut full-length feature from director David Cronenberg which anticipates the body-horror concerns of his later films such as The Fly and Videodrome.


About the Transfer: Shivers was restored by the Toronto International Film Festival. Restoration was completed at Technicolor with supervision by David Cronenberg. The restored film was delivered to Arrow Films by Lionsgate.
Additionally, it has come to light that small amount of footage is missing from this release of the film. With this being my inaugural viewing of the feature I didn’t notice anything untoward, but going by a number of comments I’ve read over the past few days it’s clear that many forum users feel differently. Arrow's Facebook page has this to say about the situation.

Quote: The Shivers restoration was carried out by TIFF (the Toronto International Film Festival) and supervised and approved by David Cronenberg. As such this four-to-five second discrepancy between the film as it appears on our release and how it played in cinemas is likely to have been the result of damaged materials and/or approved by Cronenberg. We are, however, investigating this matter thoroughly and will get back with a full answer as soon as we can.

Video


With no frame of reference to call on I can’t really comment on the accuracy of the image presented here, but I will say that it looks significantly better than the footage found in one of the accompanying documentaries. TIFF’s restoration removes many of the unsightly film artefacts that are evident in that footage, although for some odd reason reel change markers pop up in the corner at various intervals. It could be that it was sourced from a print rather than the original negative (if that even still exists), which in turn could provide an explanation as to why some footage is missing.

Whatever the source I was actually quite impressed with the picture, which delivers pleasing colours that are more natural than any previous release based on screen captures I’ve seen. Contrast runs quite hot at times, causing whites to bloom, and some detail is lost to the shadows in the murkier scenes. Although soft overall the image is still relatively detailed and there’s a pleasingly filmic amount of grain on show throughout. Again, I can’t comment on the faithfulness to the original theatrical release, and I doubt Cronenberg himself can honestly remember exactly what how it’s supposed to look, but he signed off on the restoration so he must be relatively pleased with the results. Of course he’s no stranger to controversy; just check out the changes he approved for the Criterion release of Scanners! Personally I think Shivers looks just fine in high-definition. Is it the most attractive film ever committed to Blu-ray? No, certainly not, but neither is it the most attractive film I’ve seen full stop.

Audio


The impact of the LPCM 1.0 Mono track is limited by the age and budget of the feature itself, but when the quality of the source is taken into consideration it’s actually an impressive effort. Sure dynamic range is incredibly narrow, as is the mix itself, but it’s surprisingly free from distortion and delivers clear dialogue throughout. Of course it’s unmistakably a product of its time, but Arrow’s releases are all about delivering an authentic experience, which this does. As long as you appreciate that fact you’ll be perfectly happy with the audio.

Extras


Arrow has once again assembled a comprehensive collection of bonus material for this release. There’s no audio commentary this time, but there are a number of engrossing featurettes that offer plenty of insight into the filmmaking process and Cronenberg himself. Here’s a quick breakdown.

  • Parasite Memories: The Making of Shivers: A really interesting documentary featuring interviews with stars Barbara Steele, Allan Kolman and Lynn Lowry, special effects artist Joe Blasco and film critic Kier-La Janisse. It provides a lot of behind-the-scenes info and made for very interesting viewing given my previous unfamiliarity with the film.
  • On Screen!: This is an episode of a Canadian television programme which chronicles the history of the film, featuring interviews with Cronenberg, co-producer Don Carmody, and other cast and crew.
  • From Stereo to Video: This is a specially-commissioned video essay by Caelum Vatnsdal, author of They Came from Within: A History of Canadian Horror Cinema, which charts Cronenberg’s career all the way from his experimental beginnings through to his first major studio picture, Videodrome.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer: The film’s original trailer is presented in HD.
  • Promotional Gallery: A collection of still images.
  • DVD Copy: A DVD copy is included for those yet to make the jump to Blu-ray.
  • Collector’s Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Paul Corupe, creator of the Canuxploitation website, reprinted excerpts of Cronenberg on Cronenberg and more, illustrated with original archive stills and posters
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nat Marsh: The usual reversible artwork. In this case I actually prefer the new art to the old.

Overall


I honestly wasn’t quite sure what to make of David Cronenberg’s feature debut. On one hand it’s a low budget horror with some questionable performances and a lack of scares, but on the other it introduces themes and elements that would characterise the director’s later work. One also has to admire the fact that it was shot in just fifteen days and remains as coherent and interesting as it is. It’s some way off of being my favourite Cronenberg feature, but I’m happy to have finally seen it and it feels like the sort of film that will grow on me over time. Of course I’m not one to support censorship, and always have a preference for uncut features, but in this case ignorance really is bliss. Who knows how TIFF ended up restoring a censored version of the feature, but I’m eager to learn the story behind it. Perhaps the elements were too damaged to utilise? Maybe Cronenberg made some conscious edits? Hell, it’s possible that someone simply made a mistake.

Putting that issue aside for the time being I still have no hesitation in recommending this release, even to hard-core Shivers fans. While I’m sure they’ll be disappointed by the missing footage the audio-visual quality clearly puts all prior releases in the shade, and the supplemental material is genuinely interesting despite the relatively short runtime. If you can get over the understandable frustration caused by the excision of a few seconds of footage here and there this release is certainly worthy of your time, especially given that it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see another, uncensored version any time soon.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray and have been resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking the individual images, but due to .jpg compression, they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.

 Shivers
 Shivers
 Shivers
 Shivers
 Shivers
 Shivers


Links: