Dark Sky Films // 2008 // 95 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // October 28th, 2008
Don't trust Erika Hassel!
Teen-aged Santi (Junio Valverde) and his mom (Mar Sodupe) move to a small valley village for Santi's health. The boy has a condition that makes exposure to the sun prohibitive, so this cloudy new home should suit them fine.
No sooner have they moved into a big, old farmhouse than strange and terrible things start happening. A neighbor's sheep is killed -- throat ripped out. When Santi and another boy hear a strange beast has been seen in the woods, they go to investigate. When they hear something, Santi runs, but the boy ends up dead -- throat ripped out. On another night, a man finds Santi near the woods looking for a soccer ball. The man sends Santi after the ball, and when Santi goes, the man is attacked -- throat ripped out. Since the locals are already wary of this pasty teen and sexy mom, they naturally suspect he's behind the killings and begin tormenting him.
Using the kind of deductive powers possessed only by people in low-rent horror movies, Santi figures out that the beast is actually the young girl who used to live in his house. Her family moved to Africa, but somehow, she ended up in the woods and, Mowgli-like, has been raised by beasties.
Santi and a few friends decide to track her down. They set out with a flashlight and a camera, planning to get a picture of the princess of the beasts to prove she exists, so everyone else will stop calling him names like "crazy" and "murderer." This sets the stage for an overlong climax featuring characters we barely know running around the woods at night doing things we can barely see.
And, of course, a few "shocking" revelations.
Spain, of late, has become the go-to country for inventive and chilly films. The case for Shiver invokes two of them: "From the producer of Pan's Labyrinth and The Orphanage," it boasts. Shiver has very little in common with those films; rather, it's like the bastard child of Nell and Trog with a twist ending that makes no sense.
Much of the problem with Shiver is that it throws too much into the mix, creating a sort of murky stew. Santi's ailment, for instance, causes him to move to the valley and is the source of some bullying, but otherwise, it's just not especially germane to the plot. Mother and son both have unexciting love interests whose stories are never followed through, until a dubiously happy ending. The valley people are portrayed as quaint and superstitious fools; I understand they're a bit of a drive from "the big city," but you'd think that they were denizens of M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, the way they carry on.
Then there's the whole "wild child" thing. Certainly, it's possible to have a feral 6-year-old as a scary monster. After all, civilized 6-year-olds have proven to be effectively frightening in films like The Bad Seed and The Other. In Shiver, however, it just doesn't come together. Director Isidro Ortiz doesn't seem to have thought this one out, and of course the change at the end makes much of what happened before seem like a red herring anyway.
Dark Sky offers an adequate release. The picture is fine. The audio is offered in Spanish in 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo, and there's a badly done 2.0 dub track. The dub track is also louder than the Spanish tracks, for some reason. The only extra is a trailer. I'm a little surprised that Dark Sky didn't offer more in the way of supplements, particularly for such a new release; after all, this is the company that came up with extra material for films like The Killing Kind and Simon, King of Witches.
I was looking forward to discovering Shiver as another cool, culty Spanish thriller. It's not. Slow moving and confused, it's less bloody but otherwise not any better than the standard U.S. "thrillers" that pop up in multiplexes and disappear days later.
And that makes it guilty.
Review content copyright © 2008 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Dark Sky Films
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site