They Came From Within (1975)
David Cronenberg broke into the horror scene with a vengeance when he directed his first full-length horror film, They Came From Within (a.k.a. Shivers). He immediately proved his knowledge of horror by, among other things, casting Barbara Steele. Then he didn’t just copy any of the plot points that so many other directors were using at the time. Instead, Cronenberg began a new sub-genre of horror that would become known as ‘body horror’.
They Came From Within is the story of a parasite that infects human victims and turns them into sex-crazed maniacs. All the victims become a form of libido-driven zombie, and no place is safe. That element makes this far more disturbing than any standard zombie film. On top of that, the parasite is basically a large, squirming maggot that enters victims through whatever means necessary. To put it simply, it’s a really sick and twisted plot.
In a world where people are driven completely by sexual instinct, the worst is going to come out. Cronenberg addresses this point perfectly. Quite ingeniously he turns the ‘peace and love’ notion that came with the sexual revolution completely on its head. The idea of an overuse of sexual freedom is addressed by a scientist in the beginning of the film as the key to a better society. Instead, what results in Cronenberg’s portrayal is a truly haunting image. Horror movie fans have all seen at least one zombie story, so most of us are used to the idea of flesh eating monsters. They Came From Within takes that idea, and morphs it into an even more disturbing vision. In fact, its controversial portrayal of the nature of mankind has allowed this movie to make several ‘most disturbing’ lists.
The acting is superb and the gore and makeup effects are top-notch. Rather than releasing a few films to get a feel for horror, Cronenberg revolutionizes the genre with his first release. For this reason, fans of Cronenberg and horror alike should certainly see this film.