40 years have passed since David Cronenberg introduced himself on to the silver screen, complete with an army of mind altering slugs, and giving us our first glimpses of his distorted view on reality. Shivers undoubtedly horrified the audiences of its time, as Cronenberg and his libido inducing slugs burst the protective bubble encompassing its viewers’ blissfuly ignorant lives. Whilst it may not have quite the same impact today, its re-release in glorious HD makes for a welcomed reflection on the trail Cronenberg has left on the industry.
Opening through the illusion of an advertisement for a large residential complex situated on it’s own island, there is an immediate sense that the film has not aged well. Whilst the remastering does wonders for the visual quality of the film, there remains an amateurishness to Cronenberg’s immediate direction, exemplified with a mixture of awkward tracking shots and framing as we follow a fresh faced couple entering the lobby.
The acting displayed during the early interactions between the apartment residents adds further concern that, despite being only 90 minutes, the film is going to flow at a slugs pace. Thankfully Cronenberg offers an immediate reprieve, whisking us up the building and throwing us in to an awkward struggle between an elderly gentleman and a young girl, the motive of the attack ambiguous, laced with sexual energy and ending in brutally uncomfortable fashion – Cronenberg has arrived.
Slipping in to a chaotic mess within the apartment complex as the slugs begin to gradually start their attack on the residents, transforming them one by one in to sex crazed slaves; Cronenberg continues to draw on the juxtaposition of the islands ideal of being a safe haven, regularly making us aware of the blissfulness of the outer surroundings and the isles sense of security, with references to the less than convincing security guard on the doors, all whilst a chaotic sex orgy gleefully takes place within.
The dark, sexual undercurrent is ever present and an archetypal trait of Cronenberg’s work who, even in his first feature, was unafraid of pushing the boundaries; from the aforementioned attack on the young girl, through to a bizarrely phallic pickle. But, it is the bathtub sequence with Betts that proves to be the films most iconic scene, as we are forced to endure the slugs gradual journey up between Bett’s legs as she lies helplessly in the tub, building in tension with every slimy slither.
Dubbed as Cronenberg’s take on the Zombie Apocalypse, it comfortably sits in that category but with a wonderfully unique twist. Like many zombie flicks, there is gratuitous violence, mindless slaves and importantly, a modicum of comedy in the madness. Certainly, Cronenberg’s lack of experience is evident and the sense of horror carries little impact on the desensitised minds of today, but the concept is perfectly formed, allowing Cronenberg to excrete a slimy trail of sexual chaos and psychological torment on its viewer.
Words > Sam Lawrence