The besties review
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Shivers (aka The Parasite Murders, aka They Came from Within, aka Frissons, aka Orgy of the Blood Parasites) is a schlocky body horror film worthy of its many unique titles! As you may have deduced, this early Cronenberg effort follows an aphrodisiac parasite that tears its way through the population of a luxury apartment building. Once infected by this nasty bug, people act out their most animalistic sexual impulses. There’s not a whole lot more to it, but the over the top performances and grody special effects make for a fun and freaky B-movie outing.
Another Cronenberg body horror-parasite movie, Rabid follows a young woman who is taken in by a plastic surgeon after she is severely injured in a motorcycle accident. When the surgeon’s unconventional skin grafting techniques causes the woman to crave blood, she breaks out of the clinic, leaving a slew of mangled bodies in her wake. With each new victim, the woman’s bloodlust spreads, leading to a dangerous outbreak of blood thirsty zombies. This one didn’t feel as fresh as Shivers, but I still thought there were some pretty fun moments, particularly the inclusion of a plastic surgery clinic, which is about the closest you can get to socially acceptable body horror in real life!
This is the first of my Cronenberg watches where I really felt I wasn’t picking up on the deeper themes. I caught on towards the end that this is a film primarily about motherhood and mental illness, but I think this will benefit from a rewatch or two. The “kill scenes” in this movie worked really well on me, and there were a number of really amazing shots that have stuck in my mind since watching, but one of the best things about The Brood was the score by Howard Shore— in his film composing debut no less! This was easily the most sophisticated of my Cronenberg watches thus far, so I’m interested to see how he matures with some of his later films.
I was expecting less sci-fi and more horror, but I’m not complaining! I thought Cronenberg may have been inspired by Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, but it turns out this movie was released a year before Blade Runner. I know Cronenberg was probably familiar with the PKD’s book anyways, but Scanners reminded me more of the movie the novel.
Based on the concept and the opening scenes, I thought I’d be more into this. Though the beginning was intriguing and the ending was superb, everything in the middle just sort of fell short for me. Overall I liked it, but I didn’t love it.
PS. I find it interesting that this spawned a franchise of (I’m assuming) bad sequels. It feels like it would make a good franchise or mini-series, so I guess it makes sense, but it makes you think about the kinds of franchises they were willing to greenlight back in the 80s compared to today. Give us a low budget sci-fi franchise, damn it!
Anyone who knows my movie taste knows that I looooove doppelgänger movies. Even before watching Dead Ringers I was aware that many consider this one of the best doppelgänger movies. But while I loved the initial concept, performances, and twisted romance, the ending left me wanting more. I was more or less onboard until Claire exited the narrative, but after her departure I felt the film lost a lot of what made it great. Still, Jeremy Irons is amazing and Cronenberg knows how to deliver a shocking finale, so I suppose it was net positive overall.
What is 5 Film Film Festival (5FFF)?
In short, 5 Film Film Festival is an ongoing personal project to help me watch more classic films. For each mini “festival,” I will choose a random theme (be it a genre, actor, director, etc.) and curate five movies that fit that theme to watch for the first time. When I started this journey, I posted my brief, unpolished thoughts on Letterboxd. I like this more informal, less pretentious mode of watching older movies, so as I begin documenting the project here on the site, don’t expect a lot of in-depth analysis— every “review” will read more like a “first reaction.”
If you’re like me, and you have more than a few blind spots in your cinematic knowledge, then consider joining me on this lifelong endeavor. Watch along, recommend themes, and organize some mini festivals of your own!