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Early David Cronenberg horror debuts on US Blu 4 Stars

David Cronenberg has emerged as one of the most provocative filmmakers in modern cinema as well as the master of the body horror subgenre. After making two feature length movies underground, he made his mainstream moviemaking debut in his native Canada with Shivers (AKA They Came From Within), giving the first hints of what was to come from the director. Originally released on DVD by Image here in America and on Blu-ray by Arrow Video overseas, Lionsgate – via their Vestron Video Collector’s Series line – has given the movie it’s Blu-ray debut here in the States.

Shivers (1975)
Released: 06 Jul 1976
Rated: R
Runtime: 87 min
Director: David Cronenberg
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi
Cast: Paul Hampton, Joe Silver, Lynn Lowry, Allan Kolman
Writer(s): David Cronenberg
Plot: The residents of a suburban high-rise apartment building are being infected by a strain of parasites that turn them into mindless, sex-crazed fiends out to infect others by the slightest sexual contact.
IMDB rating: 6.5
MetaScore: 58

Disc Information
Studio: Lionsgate
Distributed By: Other
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 28 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: Blue keep case with slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 09/15/2020
MSRP: $17.99

The Production: 3.5/5

At a luxurious apartment complex outside of Montreal, a shocking murder-suicide involving a doctor and his female patient baffles both the police and the complex’s inhouse doctor Roger St. Luc (Paul Hampton). However, as both Roger and Nurse Forsythe (Lynn Lowry) investigate further, the residents are beset by a sudden outbreak of infectious parasites that turn them into sexually crazed lunatics. As the infections mount up, Roger now finds himself racing against the clock to prevent the infections from reaching the city, but can he stop it in time before he too becomes infected?

Shivers is a bold debut film for David Cronenberg because it virtually sets the tone for his career early on. Right from the start, the film plunges head on into visceral yet suggestive violence that’s both jarring as well as providing a clue as to why it’s happening; the opening involving the murder-suicide is crosscut with scenes with the apartment manager showing off a vacant apartment to a new couple. Better yet, the film does a great job of executing that suggestive violence and gore without explicitly showing it; that’s certainly not a snide towards the effective practical special effects work here. Finally, Cronenberg manages to incorporate a bit of dark humor into the proceedings that does enliven the proceedings; take note of the scene where the parasite is mistaken for a splattered dead bird by a couple of little old ladies. While he has gone on to greater heights and more controversial fare in some movies, Shivers was David Cronenberg’s arrival on the horror scene with a smart and shocking film that has lived on as a cult favorite.

In one of his rare leading roles, Paul Hampton does a decent job as the apartment’s head doctor plunged into a waking nightmare; outside of the occasional acting role, he is also an accomplished songwriter whose works have been recorded by artists like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Bette Midler and Idina Menzel, just to name a few. Cult actress Lynn Lowry is given of her most notable roles as Nurse Forsythe here; she largely left Hollywood behind following Paul Schrader’s remake of Cat People (1982) to work on the stage, but has in recent years returned to film roles. Barbara Steele, the Queen of Gothic Horror movies, makes the most of her screen time as the lesbian friend of one of the tenants; the deep voiced Joe Silver also makes an impression as the colleague of the dead doctor who reveals to Roger what the doctor was working on. Rounding out the cast here are Alan Migicovsky as the man who is the main carrier of the parasites, Susan Petrie as his wife, Camil Ducharme and Hanka Posnanska as the elderly couple the Guilbaults, Wally Martin as the doorman, Vlasta Vrana and Silvie Debois as the young couple at the beginning of the film, Joan Blackman and Kirsten Bishop as the mother and daughter who catch the parasites in the elevator, Nora Johnson (author of The World of Henry Orient and the daughter of film producer Nunnally Johnson) as an unfortunate laundry woman, Barry Boldero as the befuddled detective who is stunned by the initial deaths, and Fred Doederlein and Cathy Graham as the doctor and patient whose violent deaths at the start become more and more clear as the movie goes on.

Video: 4/5

3D Rating: NA

The film is presented in its original 1:78:1 aspect ratio for this release, likely taken from the same HD transfer used for Arrow’s Region B Blu-ray release back in 2014. Film grain is organic with colors and fine details rendered faithfully; problems like scratches, tears and dirt are fairly minor and few overall, belying its low budget origins. Overall, this is likely the best the movie will ever look on home video.

Audio: 4.5/5

The original mono soundtrack is presented on a DTS-HD Master Audio track for this release. Dialogue is strong and clear, with sound effects and music (supervised by the film’s producer Ivan Reitman) also given faithful representations; issues like distortion, hissing and crackling are very minor here. In short, this is likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video.

Special Features: 4.5/5

Commentary with writer/director David Cronenberg, moderated by Chris Alexander – Recorded for this release, Cronenberg shares some of the memories he had making his first mainstream movie.

Commentary with co-producer Don Carmody, moderated by Chris Alexander – Also recorded for this release, Carmody adds some additional details on the film’s production while clarify a few points that Cronenberg wasn’t clear about in his commentary.

Mind Over Matter (12 min.) – Filmed for this release, Cronenberg’s on camera interview is basically a rehashing of some points he made in his commentary track.

Good Night Nurse (16:54) – Lynn Lowry talks about her involvement with the movie and how it helped her attain cult status in this new interview.

Outside and Within (12:55) – Special makeup effects creator Joe Blasco talks about creating the parasites and how he initially wanted to work on the movie just because Barbara Steele was involved in this brand new interview.

Celebrating Cinepix (10 min.) – Greg Dunning, the son of film producer John Dunning, talks about his father’s company Cinepix and some of the challenges working in the Canadian film system in this new interview.

Still Gallery – A series of production, behind-the-scenes and promotional stills are presented here in two options: one by itself (8:01) and the other with an archival audio interview from 2011 with John Dunning (8:37).

Theatrical Trailers (3:01) – Two trailers are presented in succession, one with the film’s original title and the US release retitled They Came from Within.

They Came from Within TV Spot (1:03)

Radio Spots (3) (2:17)

Notably missing here are several special features from Arrow’s 2014 Blu-ray release: A documentary on the film featuring interviews with Barbara Steele, Allan Kolman, Lynn Lowry, & Joe Blasco, an episode of a Canadian TV program detailing the making of the movie, and a visual essay by author Caelum Vatnsdal.

Overall: 4/5

Despite getting a lot of negative reviews from critics (Roger Ebert being a notable exception in giving a positive review), Shivers did garner some box office success and would help David Cronenberg along in his burgeoning career. Lionsgate has done a great job in giving the film its first Blu-ray release here in the States, with a solid HD transfer to go along with a equally great slate of special features, several of them newly produced. Highly recommended for fans of the director and the horror genre as well.

Amazon.com: Shivers [Blu-ray +Digital]: Paul Hampton, Joe Silver, Lynn Lowry, Allan Kolman, Susan Petrie, Barbara Steele, Ronald Mlodzik, Barry Baldaro, Camil Ducharme, Hanna Poznanska, David Cronenberg: Movies & TV

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Oct 6, 2016
Real Name
Michael Shayne
It was filmed in and around my native Montreal (primarily on Nun's Island). When the film was originally released in English in Montreal (and probably other cities) it was called "the Parasite Murders". I was also friends with the late Kirsten Bishop(ric). She told me once that the scene where she passes the parasite via an open-mouth kiss was clipped in some places as she was a minor at the time.


All Things Film Junkie
Senior HTF Member
Jul 30, 2003
North of the 49th
Real Name
Stephen J. Hill
I have vivid memories of seeing the poster which inspired the Vestron Video cover at my local movie theatre when I was 4 or 5 years old. It's the kind of graphic image that stays with you.