After cranking out two little-seen el cheapo underground features ("Stereo" & "Crimes of the Future"; the former is one of the dullest films I ever tried to sit through), David Cronenberg spent three years laboring to get his first studio movie off the ground. The movie that eventually came out of that struggle is clumsily made in places, but it adds up to more than the sum of its parts and stands as one of the most important horror flicks of the '70s.The "they" of the title refers to a horde of little creatures that strongly resemble mobile turds, which are running riot in an apartment building. These runaway turds do not actually kill anyone; they transform their victims into sexually ravenous maniacs eager to infect others with the same affliction. It's potentially a real envelope-pushing premise, but Cronenberg--whether wisely or not--keeps the sexual craziness to a minimum. Still, there's weirdness aplenty to be found here.
There's much to complain about here, what with the less-than-brilliant acting (the male lead's Joe Friday act is priceless), occasionally goofy dialogue, and awkwardly handled exposition. But dull it is not, and Cronenberg comes up with more than a few compelling sequences before the movie's unforgettable orgy-in-the-swimming-pool climax. It's the career high point for petite female lead Lynn Lowry (maybe best known as the prostitute who gets mauled by a panther in "Cat People"), and perhaps for Cronenberg himself, who has led an erratic if undeniably interesting career since this early effort.
(Note That Will Hopefully Forestall Confusion: "They Came From Within" is the same movie that has been recently re-released in the U.S. as "Shivers," the title it is already best known by in much of the world. Therefore: Shivers=They Came From Within. QED.)Despite obvious defects, this is Cronenberg at his best, and a far more interesting movie than anything yet to come out of the Kevin Williamson School of Teen Horror.