Wednesday, 8 October 2014

"Shivers" - UK BD/DVD review

Making its worldwide Blu-Ray debut, David Cronenberg’s tale of high rise terror, where the tenants of an apartment building are not who they appear to be, “Shivers” is out this month in a Blu-Ray and DVD combo pack and exclusive Blu-Ray steelbook, and Arrow films were nice enough to send me a copy to look at.
The Starliner apartment block, on the outskirts of Montreal, Canada offers the very latest in luxury accommodation. Overlooking the river and fitted with all the latest mod-cons, the advertisements claim it to be “living at its finest”.
But when one of the tenants, a young girl named Annabelle (Cathy Graham), is attacked and brutally butchered in her flat, we soon discover that all is not well there. The Doctor who runs the buildings medical centre, Roger St Luc (Paul Hampton), is shocked to discover she had been killed by a former associate of his, a Dr Hobbs (Fred Doederlein – Scanners), who then took his own life. But then shortly afterwards, begins to notice the other tenants in the building exhibiting strange behaviour and sporting strange lumps on their abdomens.
Checking at the university where Hobbs lectured, he finds that he’d been working on bizarre new organ transplant method, involving parasitic creatures that can replace human organs and the young girl he killed was being used by him as a guinea pig to test them out.
Realising too late that these parasites are not the helpful life-saving entities they were intended to be and that they are now infecting other people in the apartment blocks, as the other tenants proceed to violently attack and sexually assault one another. He finds himself trapped inside the building, battling to survive as the infection begins to spread…
Also starring Lynn Lowry (The Crazies) and horror veteran Barbara Steele (Black Sunday, Piranha), this early effort from David Cronenberg, which borrows from the likes of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, has certainly lost none of its impact over the years.
The opening scene with the obsequious building manager showing a prospective couple round one apartment, whilst Hobbs is brutally assaulting and butchering, what looked like a 16 year old schoolgirl, in another, is certainly one of the most warped juxtapositions I’ve ever seen in a film.
From there on in, the film makers ramp up the tension as we find more and more people in the building slowly succumbing to these creatures, until things finally spill over and Dr St Luc finds he’s probably the last one left and has to try and fight his way past everyone to get out.
I’m pretty sure “Demons 2”, which was also set in a block of flats, owes more than a passing nod to this. Not to mention “Slither” and “Night of Creeps”, which had people being taken over by alien parasites.
Anyway, the discs come stacked with the usual slew of special features that have become synonymous with Arrow releases.
First up is a brand new making-of documentary “Parasite Memories” (41mins) which features interviews with special effects man Joe Blasco, and stars Barbara Steele, Lynn Lowry and Allan Kolman, who provide some fun anecdotes about how they all got involved in the production and some of the bizarre methods they had to employ to get the film made, interspersed with comments from film critic Kier La-Janisse.
Next there’s an episode of the 2008 Canadian documentary series “On Screen” (47 mins), which examined The Making of Shivers. Featuring new (at that time) and archive interviews with David Cronenberg, various other cast and crew members, including actress Lynn Lowry, producer Ivan Reitman, and numerous film critics. Charting Cronenberg’s early career, his problems both before during and after the film was made, including the fierce critical backlash it received and also looks at some his subsequent movies like “Rabid” and touches on his more recent efforts, such as “History of Violence”.

Also included is a video essay by Callum Vatnsdal entitled “Stereo to Video” (25mins) which looks at Cronenbergs early films from “Shivers” through to “Videodrome”.

Then lastly we have the original theatrical trailer and a promotional gallery, showing the various theatrical posters for the films release.

Both releases contain a special Collector’s Booklet featuring linear notes by Paul Corupe, creator of the Canuxploitation website. Reprinted excerpts of Cronenberg on Cronenberg and is illustrated throughout with original archive stills and posters

The combo pack release also contains reversible sleeve artwork, with the original theatrical poster on one side and newly commissioned art by Nat Marsh on the other.

Definitely a must-have for Cronenberg fans, if you’re looking at adding this film to your collection or wanting to upgrade from the previous DVD editions, then this Arrow disc is an essential purchase.

*EDIT* Apparently, this release from Arrow is not quite fully uncut. The scene where Mr Tudor attacks Dr Linsky in his apartment is about 4-5s shorter than the old US release from Image. Which truncates the attack and misses out a scene of him drinking Dr Linsky's blood. Arrow have yet to issue a statement, except to say that this new release was restored with the approval of David Cronenberg and that they'll look into why this scene has been shortened.

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