Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Alternate Title: They Came From Within
Canada, 1975. Cinépix Film Properties, DAL Productions, Canadian Film Development Corporation. Screenplay by David Cronenberg. Cinematography by Robert Saad. Produced by Ivan Reitman. Music by Ivan Reitman. Production Design by Erla Gliserman. Film Editing by Patrick Dodd.
David Cronenberg makes his first full-length feature and he’s a success from the start, a simultaneously terrifying and funny tale of a swanky Montreal high-rise apartment building whose residents have moved in for the fine living but end up with something much nastier. A parasite has entered the building and is spreading from one apartment to the next, turning those that it infects into dangerous, violent and sex-crazed psychopaths. A doctor (Paul Hampton) gets wise to what is going on thanks to his nurse assistant (Lynn Lowry) living in the building, and he enters at his own peril trying to put a stop to things but the task is overwhelming. The sight of the slug-like creature that climbs walls and enters bathtub drains (a particularly disturbing scene with the wonderful Barbara Steele) is enough to make your skin crawl, while the Carnival Of Souls-like madness of human zombies wandering this luxury condominium is delightfully wry: Cronenberg has plenty to say about social economic stratospheres and the dirty reality hiding behind middle-class respectability, but he lets the actions speak for themselves and never overstates the message, too amused by it himself (he was later offered the chance to direct the adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s High Rise and turned it down, feeling like he’d be doubling back on his work). The great filmmaker’s work would grow strength in storytelling and style but he was rarely as carefree as he is here, the glee with which he destroys your senses is so potent that, at the time, the film got him in hot water with censorious Ontario bureaucrats who made funding for his future works very difficult; thankfully, the world of film lovers and, particularly those who adore horror cinema, understood that a true master had arrived whose method was as intelligent as it was imaginative, and that he was laying the groundwork for his later achievements.