Sex is such an intrinsic part in the existence of all multi-cellular biological organisms that any artist attempting to even remotely tackle the broad topic of the human condition, in any worthwhile way, inevitably has to focus on the topic of sex at some point. You may disagree, but fact is if it weren't for your dad splooging baby juice up your mom's love chasm, then you wouldn't have the benefit of existence which is the most basic requirement for disagreement. Denying the importance of sex is to deny your own existence. That's just stupid. So, every great director needs to have a sex movie. It doesn't necessarily have to be a good movie, but it's too important a subject for any great artist to ignore. That's not my opinion, that's a simple fact. Romero has Martin. Henenlotter has Bad Biology. Hitchcock has Marnie. Craven has Last House. John Woo has that one where dudes gaze longingly into each others eyes during a gunfight. Spielberg has Hook. Kubrick has Full Metal Jacket. The Japanese guy who directed Gusomilk has Gusomilk. All great directors; all movies that ask the viewer to mentally purchase a one-way train ticket from Boner Central to Ejaculationville.
Cronenberg stands alone in the above company, because he automatically realises the importance of sex and instills it into almost all of his movies. He's the only director brave enough to faithfully film Crash, the most subversive pornographic novel of the 20th century. He managed to remake a fairly staid Vincent Price classic whilst still including a scene where Jeff Goldblum uses his newly-discovered insectile stamina to provide waves of pleasure to Geena Davis's coochie. Even with A History of Violence, based on a wholly non-sexual graphic novel, the Cronester managed to insert 2 sex scenes which tell us more about the characters than every other scene combined. So while Shivers is not Cronie's definitive sex movie, it still holds the distinction of being his first sex movie.
Shivers begins in a luxurious apartment complex with some elderly doctor dude murderlyzing the shit out of an androgynous looking young woman. I honestly thought she was a boy until the movie kindly shows us her pert bewbs. We learn the doc had created a bunch of squiggly phallic dick creatures that greatly enhance sexual urges in the human brain, and this teen girl (the movie assures us she's 19, but I still felt a little guilty jerking off to her) was the test subject for implanting these sexual parasites. Turns out these creatures are a little too effective and turn their hosts into rape-crazy sex zombies. Adding to the urgency of the horror is the fact that this chick is... well, let's just say that in a game of D&D, she'd be a Level 69 Temptress with a +4 Snatch of Priapism Envelopment. Yeah, she's a total slut who's been boning a number of guys in the bulding.
It's here where Cronenberg wisely leaves the method of parasite transmission to our imagination. Naturally, the immediate image brought to mind is of a horny whore who resembles a 14 year old boy vigorously tonsil-massaging a succession of old guys wizened boners, frantically urethra-tongueing baby worms down their dickholes while she delicately caresses their hanging, wrinkled ballsacks; the parasite's boring into these middle-aged testicles and forming a nest, just as those same testicles' soon-to-be ejected contents will be hungrily gobbled down to rest in her stomach and be consumed by digestive juices. I'm sure you all thought the same. Then again, I tend to think about that sort of thing regardless of what movie I'm watching, so maybe I'm being a little presumptuous.
Later in the film, when it turns out the parasites can be transmitted in the mouth-to-mouth fashion, we're once again asked to conjure up images of the unseen act. A mental cavalcade of buff muscular straight guys finding their inner gay and lovingly fellating these phallic organisms from both sides like a double-ended dildo, occasionally daring to touch lips in the centre during their sensual suck-of-war; lesbians overcoming their fear of the phallus to perform the same; taboo-shattering incestuous couplings where family members lock mouths while a disembodied cock creature travels from one throat to the next. Thoroughly vivid imagery for viewers with pornographically inclined imaginations. Even the way the creatures manifest in the body is somewhat sexual - a presence in the abdomen that bulges up under the stomach muscles. An all too familiar sight for anyone who's seen any extreme fisting porn.
Cronenberg has since admitted that he sides with the parasites and it shows in the movie. Consider that the "hero" single-handedly kills more people than all the infected folk combined do. Alls the sex zombies want to do is bang anything with a pulse, while the guy we're supposed to be cheering for puts bullets into whomever he considers a threat. Here's a very simple life lesson: Sex is awesome. Murder is most definitely not awesome, and is in fact the single shittiest thing that one human being can do to another. So it's entirely fitting that the traditional hero's journey in this movie ends with his death, or rather 'turning', in a swimming pool full of hot horny naked chicks. And this scene plays out not as any kind of tragedy, but more like a baptism ceremony. Ask yourself, is there a single other filmmaker on the planet more uniquely and subversively pro-sex than Cronenberg?
The finale culminates in all the poontastic sex zombies driving out to spread their wonderful infection to the rest of the world. The parasites go global. Every country on the planet becomes infested with sex-mad psychotics shagging every uninfected being, whether they like it or not. Sex in the streets. Sex in your home. Sex in your workplace. Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex... Eventually, we all become hosts. The entire globe unites in a singular moment where 6 billion people all simultaneously orgasm. The worldwide epidemic of jizz-soaked shuddering ecstasy knocks Earth out of orbit with the sun. Our world spins off aimlessly into space. Gravity dissipates and we all float away into oblivion, post-coital cigarettes still clutched between our lips. I can't think of a better way for the human race to become extinct.
Once again, the movie leaves the ending to our imagination, and this is just my personal thoughts.
Anyway, to summarise, if you like sex, then you'll like Shivers. If you don't like sex then... you probably haven't read this far and are currently making yourself a hot cup of Darjeeling before settling in for a satisfying night of finishing your latest cross-stitch. Good for you. I'm off to go jerk it to midget porn now. Thanks for reading.