Luke Aspell is an experimental filmmaker and writer. His film and video work have been shown internationally at festivals and venues including the Ankara International Film Festival, the CONTACT Festival, the National Portrait Gallery, and the V&A in London. His writing has appeared in Vertigo, Sequence and Film International and online at Senses of Cinema.
Shivers (1975) was David Cronenberg’s first commercial feature and his first horror film. In a modern apartment block, a scientific project to unleash the id results in the equation of passion with contagion and predation. Because the writer-director’s imaginative landscape arrived in the genre fully formed, the unique forms of this début have often been overlooked or mistaken for shortcomings. Cronenberg’s most comedic film until Map to the Stars, Shivers is also his most spectacularly unnerving, throwing more images of extreme behavior at us than any of his subsequent films; it remains, with Crash, his most disquieting and transgressive film to date. Luke Aspell’s analysis addresses all channels of communication available to the 35mm sync-sound narrative feature, including shot composition, lighting, cinematographic texture, sound, the use of stock music, editing, costume, makeup, optical work, the screenplay, the casting, and the direction of the actors. Attending to form the better to see the film in its context, this tour of Shivers as “cognitive territory” takes in architecture, cultural context, critical reception, and artistic legacy.