Column: From Strange and Distant Shores: Shiver

By Orrin Grey

shiverShiver (2008) Director: Isidro Ortiz Cast: Junio Valverde, Mar Sodupe, Francesc Orella Country: Spain.

In the last few years a lot of really great supernatural and horror films have come out of Spain and for awhile, I was hoping that Shiver was going to be one of them. We’re introduced to Santi, our teenage protagonist, in an intense dream sequence that also introduces us to the undisclosed skin condition which renders him dangerously allergic to direct sunlight. As a secondary effect, the disease also causes his canines to grow unusually long. You can probably see where this is going, except that Shiver never really goes there.

That’s the problem with Shiver; it starts out strong, but quickly begins to feel like a string of missed opportunities. Shortly after we meet the main characters, Santi and his mom move out to a rural village in a valley where the sun only shines for a few hours a day. Suspiciously soon after their arrival, weird stuff starts happening in the woods around the village and it isn’t long before bodies start appearing, drained of their blood. It seems like a perfect setup, but it’s never really taken advantage of. Once Santi and his mom make it to the village, Santi’s condition quickly drops to the background of the story. Occasionally, someone will bring up his resemblance to a vampire, and the movie does spend some time trying to cast suspicion onto him where the murders are concerned, but it never really works. The audience already knows that he’s not the killer and so, the scenes where other people suspect him never generate much tension.

If Shiver had something else clever hidden up its sleeve, then the stubborn insistence on dodging the obvious payoffs from the setup of Santi’s condition could have worked, but after the first half, Shiver turns into a pretty typical series of jump scares, people in empty houses, and teens running around the woods in the dark. The identity of the (fairly disappointing) actual culprit is revealed pretty early on and then the last reel features a twist ending that even the participants seem to have nearly forgotten to include. By the credits, everything makes an acceptable amount of sense; unfortunately, the monster and the twist both feel like they came out of a different movie than the one we started out watching.

Prior to watching it, I hadn’t heard much of anything about Shiver. It was a disappointment, but not because there’s really anything all that wrong with it. The shots are occasionally very pretty, and the acting is almost universally good, but it feels like a big opportunity was missed here. I can imagine a really great horror movie that reverses the usual tropes and gives us a protagonist who’s at home in the dark and afraid of the light. Unfortunately, Shiver really isn’t that movie at all.

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