Monday, November 1, 2010

'Shivers'...Down My Spine.

A very young Cronenberg directs one of his actors in one of the less bizarre scenes of the Shivers.

Is there a better director out there living AND working right now than David Cronenberg? I submit that there is not. And clearly, every single one of his films would be perfect for analysis in a filth discourse, but I want to talk about an experience I had Friday, where appropriately enough, during Halloween weekend, my department decided to screen a double feature of Cronenberg. The one I attended was 'Shivers' (1975). The working title of this film was 'Orgies of The Blood Parasites'. It was shot on a very low budget in Montreal, like many of his early stuff, and let's just say that 'The Fly' doesn't hold a candle to the nastiness of this film; nastiness I mean in the best way possible. 

Here's the premise; there's virtually no plot, and random people in a posh condo slowly become infected by slimy phallic slugs that a mad scientist thought would cure people of 'thinking too much'. He wanted for people to be like animals again, and wanted the world to be a giant orgy. Thus, the slugs he created, penetrate (for lack of a better word) the person, and slowly turn them into a crazed sex maniac. Slowly over time, the whole hotel gets 'infected' and engages in one uberorgy, right before embarking on the rest of the world in order to turn everyone into a sex maniac. Sounds like a n awesome party right? Kind of reminds you of that one weekend at the beach? Yeah, good times. 
The allegory in this film is almost a bit too obvious, but that's what I think makes it so incredible, because it really stands out as one of those few well-made camp horror films. If we're talking about camp-horror as a sub-genre, we usually think cheerleaders, ants, brains being eaten, and bizarre things happening to breasts. We usually think purposeful cheap quality, and lack of plot. This film is of course many of those things, but it still manages to be intellectual and absolutely gross at the same time. If you thought you had penis fear before? After this you might just join a convent. The slug creatures are reminiscent of those posters of VD that hangs in the OBGYN's office that is supposed to scare the everloving crap out of you so that you never want to have sex again every time you visit. And when she/he offers you free condoms from that weird goldfish bowl as you're leaving the office, you tell her 'no thanks', because you're going home to kill yourself. They will get inside your body anyway they can, just like VD I guess. The most popular means is through any orifice in the head/face (including the ear) bet you didn't think of that one, but Cronenberg did. That's why he's acclaimed and famous, and you're not. At one point this one actor (who's strange looking to begin with) ends up spitting a giant slimy phallic slug right into the mouth of someone else. At another point, there is a woman played with brilliant over-the-top style by Barbara Steele (remember her? she was the weird one in 8 1/2...did that help?) gets drunk and takes a bath, now when was there ever a movie where that scenario ended well?  A slug crawls through the drain right into her lady parts after which there is momentary paralysis, followed by the unwavering need to have an orgy. The only person that seems to outrun this 'plague' for most of the film is the doctor that works in the building. He is a fine upstanding citizen who just wants to help everyone (very much what they based the character of Jack Shepherd on in Lost). After a while though, the sex maniacs track him down and he is forced to have sex with a bunch of beautiful naked women, poor bastard. 
Barbara Steele's bathtub seconds before she's taken over.

It's all very simple. It's a satire about the worst fears of those fine upstanding citizens of the world that want to protect their citizens from 'corruption'. Be careful, or the slimy penis slug will crawl into your body and take over your mind. This is what will happen to society if we let people run wild. Sex should be regulated, and should only be after marriage, otherwise we're just a bunch of wild animals spreading our sexual desires to others and corrupting the youth blah blah blah. But Cronenberg has to incorporate this satire into a camp-horror context, otherwise, it's just no fun is it? Otherwise it becomes just another stick-it-to-the-man 70's film. 8 years before he made 'The Fly' (1983), which is arguably the best sexual allegory film of all time, there was this low budget magnum opus of intelligent filth. It is a masterpiece of deviant art. It's horrifying, hilarious, disgusting, and completely fascinating. Please if you can find it, treat yourself. You won't regret it...well, maybe you will. 

No comments: