Before they were horror stars: De Palma and Cronenberg

It’s a 1970s double feature of two completely different horror flix from Brian De Palma and David Cronenberg: sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll in Phantom of the Paradise and sex, slugs, and more sex in Shivers. Plus, a touch of gay in each of them!

Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

phantom of paradise cover

After Sisters but before Carrie, Brian De Palma did a fricking horror musical! Modernizing Phantom of the Opera, De Palma cast big time songwriter Paul Williams (hitmaker for artists like The Carpenters and Barbra Streisand) as a devious record producer who not only makes a deal with the devil for eternal youth, but in the process, steals the compositions of a struggling songwriter.

phantom of paradise paul williams

Some crazy shit happens and the songwriter ends up with a deformed face and metal teeth that would put Luther the Geek to shame. He dons a futuristic mask, is hooked up with an electronic voice for speaking—and sets his sights on a singer at the concert hall, played by Jessica Harper of Suspiria!

phantom of paradise jessica

The scene-stealer is actor Gerrit Graham, who plays a flamboyant gay glam rocker named Beef. Graham has a huge horror career, including movies like Terror Vision, Chopping Mall, It’s Alive III, Demon Seed, Child’s Play 2, Wasp Woman, and the horror sci-fi musical comedy The Creature Wasn’t Nice (aka: Naked Space).But most importantly, he played Bud in C.H.U.D II: Bud the C.H.U.D.

phantom of paradise rocker

Paul Williams wrote the music for the movie, but there sure isn’t any “We’ve Only Just Begun” or “Rainy Days and Mondays” quality stuff here…although, all the songs probably would have sounded better if Karen Carpenter were singing them. Other than some 50s doo-wop sounding songs, much of the music reminded me of Hair/Jesus Christ Superstar type theatrical melodrama. Incredibly early 1970s sounding and incredibly dated.

phantom of paradise teeth

That Phantom has some set of chops!

Phantom of the Paradise is definitely a product of its time, but it’s still quirky, campy, funny, and trippy in a 1970s kind of way. It’s in no way a “horror” movie, so don’t expect the Phantom to be hacking people up left and right because it doesn’t happen. But you do get a little bit of “gore” at the end of the film during some final unmasking!

SHIVERS (aka: They Came from Within) (1975)

shivers cover

Imagine if whacked director David Cronenberg made his movie Shivers with the allowances of today’s extreme cinema. Although, the movie basically has been redone in various forms for modern audiences. Slug-like parasites passing from one body to another, particularly through bodily orifices, is pretty much commonplace these days!

shivers slug mouth

So yeah. That’s the premise. These sex slugs make you horny as fuck and they’ve invaded an entire apartment complex. The movie has noticeable 1970s slow burn as it focuses on members of the medical field (including scream queen Lynn Lowry as a nurse) trying to figure out what the hell is going on. But it really picks up at the end with some scenes of gore, attempted sexual assault, and even lesbianism (featuring scream queen Barbara Steele). Leave it to typical hetero male sex slugs to turn women into lesbians but not a single male into a hairy butt bandit.

shivers les

By the end of the movie, there’s essentially a horde of sex zombies craving human flesh, and the most frightening thing is that some of them ain’t pretty! If I’m going to get eaten in the good way by horny zombies, they have to be attractive!

Shivers never goes to the extreme of all out sexual perversion. Bummer. I wanted full-on orgies, but the closest we get is a swimming pool gang bang that involves no nudity—but does actually hint at men piling on to the male object of everyone’s affection! If you watch closely, you can see the men trying their best to swarm the actor as directed without actually touching him. Pretty funny.

shivers pool

No doubt, a modern remake could totally bring on the exploitation angle of this cautionary tale of sexual promiscuity and venereal disease and expose it to a whole new world of sexual deviants!

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at
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