Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Starring Junio Valverde, Blanca Suarez, Jimmy Barnatan, Mar Sodupe
Directed by Isidro Ortiz
Released by Dark Sky Films
Why can’t anyone just make a good old-fashioned monster movie anymore? At least with a descent budget behind it? Don’t get me wrong. Shiver is still a pretty tense little tale of suspicion and alienation, but it also has earmarks of what could’ve been a cool monster movie, too, and since it isn’t, well … I guess I’m just a little let down.
The story revolves around Santi (Valverde), a normal teenager in most respects save the rather annoying affliction of photophobia, a severe aversion to sunlight due to its immediate disfiguring effect on one’s skin. His mother is told that getting out of the city and finding some place with less sun is probably the only thing that will save Santi’s life, so she moves them to a small village located in a deep valley, which only sees a few hours of sun a day.
Shortly after his arrival, first livestock and then people start turning up dead, and Santi happens to be at every scene when a body is found. He knows he’s not responsible because he’s seen what is to blame for the killings and is just as terrified of it as its victims are. The people of the small town, however, suspect him immediately, especially given that the victims have had their throats torn out and their blood drunk. Santi’s aversion to sunlight and overlong canine teeth lead them to believe he must be responsible for the killings. As if it weren’t hard enough to try to fit into a new town…
Eventually Santi enlists the help of Angela (Suarez) and a friend from his old stomping grounds, Lou (Barnatan), and together they set out to find the real cause for the killings and clear Santi’s name.
Warning: Some minor spoilers ahead.
Here’s my issue with Shiver, aside from the fact that the translated title really makes no sense: The villain is a feral girl who’s been living in the woods for the last year or so, fending for herself by taking down the occasional sheep until something meatier comes along. It’s kind of ridiculous, to be perfectly honest. Sure the girl is feral and apparently has been since her parents lost her in the jungles of Africa many years previous, but she weighs about 50 lbs. soaking wet, so it’s pretty hard to believe she’s taken down humans on scale with her, let alone two to three times her size.
My other problem with Shiver goes back to my hopes/expectations; I really wanted this to be a monster. Just like in Them I really wanted the tormentors to be something supernatural. The Spanish seem to be making more and more movies that are set up to be classic monster movies only to end up being based in reality for the most part. The Orphanage (which shares the same producer as Shiver, Alvaro Augustin) and even Pan’s Labyrinth to a degree are both guilty of this. I’m not sure if this has something to do with the current Spanish mentality or is just a strange coincidence, but damnit, the land that birthed Paul Naschy should be getting more monster movies out there!
But I can’t judge Shiver by what it’s not, only what it is, and at the end of the day it’s really not that much. As stated previously, the themes of isolation and alienation are touched on but are not really explored like I would have liked them to be. Too much of the movie is spent trying to find this feral girl and learning where she came from, which, while an interesting premise that’s not done very often, is just a bit too thin to carry the whole movie.
Shiver is shot beautifully, though, and director Ortiz never lets the plot slow down once it picks up speed. It’s not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not anything you’ll be talking about for very long afterward. There’s nothing here we haven’t seen done before, and ultimately I think that’s what keeps Shiver from being something great.
As for the features on this DVD, all you get is the film’s trailer, no commentary, no featurette, not even a still gallery. Odd, really, since Dark Sky is usually so good about giving us great extras.
2 1/2 out of 5
1/2 out of 5
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