This debut feature from the infamous David Cronenberg, takes place on the outskirts of Montreal, Canada. Where a new luxury apartment block, known as The Starliner, has just opened. Overlooking the river and fitted with all the latest mod-cons, the advertisements claim it to be “living at its finest”. But when one of the tenants, a young girl named Annabelle (Cathy Graham), is attacked and brutally butchered in her flat, we soon discover that all is not well there.
The Doctor who runs the building's medical centre, Roger St Luc (Paul Hampton), is shocked to discover she had been killed by a former associate of his, a Dr Hobbs (Fred Doederlein – Scanners), who then took his own life. But then shortly afterwards, he begins to notice the other tenants in the building exhibiting strange behaviour and sporting strange lumps on their abdomens.
It turns out Hobbs had been working on bizarre new organ transplant method, involving parasitic creatures that can replace human organs and the young girl he killed was one of his test subjects. But these parasites are not the helpful, life-saving entities they were intended to be and are now infecting other people. As the other tenants proceed to violently attack and sexually assault one another. Roger finds himself trapped in the building, battling to survive as the infection begins to spread…
Also starring Lynn Lowry (The Crazies) and horror veteran Barbara Steele (Black Sunday, Piranha) and produced by Ivan Reitmen, who's best known for going on to Direct "Ghostbusters", the film has certainly lost none of its impact over the years. The opening scene with the obsequious building manager showing a prospective couple around one apartment, whilst Hobbs is violently murdering, what looked like, a 16 year old schoolgirl in another, is certainly one of the most warped juxtapositions I’ve ever seen in a film.
From there on in, the film makers ramp up the tension as we find more and more people in the building slowly succumbing to these creatures, until things finally spill over and our main character finds he’s probably the last one left and has to try and fight his way past everyone to get out. The film was in some ways reminiscent of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". However, I’m pretty sure this film was an influence on “Demons 2”, which was also set in a block of flats. Not to mention “Slither” and “Night of Creeps”, which had people being taken over by alien parasites.
If you haven't checked out Cronenberg's earlier films yet, this one is a must.