Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Canada, 1977. Canadian Film Development Corporation, Cinema Entertainment Enterprises, Cinépix Film Properties, Dunning/Link/Reitman Productions, Famous Players. Screenplay by David Cronenberg. Cinematography by René Verzier. Produced by John Dunning. Music by Ivan Reitman. Production Design by Claude Marchand. Costume Design by Erla Gliserman. Film Editing by Jean LaFleur.
A motorcycle accident brings Frank Moore and Marilyn Chambers into the nearest hospital, a private plastic surgery clinic that resets his bones and sees to her much graver injuries. Using an experimental surgical technique that he has been developing for his own patients, the head surgeon at the clinic creates skin grafts to treat Chambers’ serious burns as she lies in a coma. When she wakes up ahead of schedule, the grafts seem to have taken successfully except for one tiny little problem: a disturbing orifice has grown in her armpit that releases a fleshy, bloody stamen that pierces into anyone who goes in for a hug. She escapes from the hospital and shares her constant need for embraces with all she meets, leaving in her wake a horde of green-eyed, mouth-foaming zombies who then bite others and infect them with their virus. Social order breaks down as Chambers takes refuge in her best friend’s house and the rest of the city tries to deal with the outbreak. The pandemonium that is so beautifully created in the initial hospital leads to rioting in the streets under Cronenberg’s controlled direction, employing a bit less of the joy with which he told Shivers but a lot more style and sharp storytelling as well; from here on in his films would slowly increase their precision while, little by little, leaving their glee behind until he reached the bone-dry dullness of films like Cosmopolis and A Dangerous Method. Chambers, who at this point was notorious for her career in adult films, does a terrific job in the lead, performing a character with insatiable desires for human contact with a self-aware irony that deepens the film’s appalling pleasures.