Well, I’ll just do my part to kill the hype here. For quite some time people have been talking about this movie and I was pretty stoked to get to see it at The Berlin Film Festival – not least seeing as director Isidro Ortiz was the main thrust behind the playful and psychedelic student-project Fausto 5.0. The trailer looked intriguing, the synopsis exciting, but I’ll be goddamned if the movie didn’t turn out to be, well, average at best.
It all starts out pretty ok, but before long you’re just sitting there wondering what the hell is going on. Shiver is one of those horror-movies that goes from witty to shitty and back again in a matter of seconds. After the screening in Berlin director Ortiz explained how the film has been in production for a number of years employing no less than four different screenwriters for adjustment, re-writes and tweaking and in my opinion that’s where it all went wrong! Draft after draft has pulled the story in different directions ultimately pulling it apart. What starts out as a vampire-story, turns into a tale of a haunted forest, turns into a monster-movie and winds up as typical slasher-fare. None of these elements seem to work together, only few of them work at all, and the end result is basically a mess.
The story centers round young Santi (Junio Valverde) and his mother Julia (Mar Sodupe), who due to Santi’s skin-disease (he’s like the third kid from The Others, basically gets burned literally if exposed to sunlight) move from the city to a spooky, abandoned mansion in a valley that doesn’t get to much sun a day. Things of course aren’t all that joyous when moving to old, scary mansions and soon the woods around the house start revealing their secrets. Dead cattle escalates into a dead schoolkid and almost before he’s unpacked Santi finds himself a suspect in a murder case. At the same time he’s trying to uncover the monstrous secrets in the forest and falling in love with the daughter of the police detective who’s investigating him.
The premise of a modern day “vampire” who fears the sun and gets bullied in school for being weird is a promising one, but symptomatically for the movie, it’s abandoned as soon as it has been set up. Same goes for the forest which isn’t scary at any point since we basically know there’s a monster afoot from day one. The love story isn’t explored, there’s very little mystery to the monster and Santi’s father, who suddenly shows up, does little to help the movie along it’s journey towards the predictable finale.
So it’s a horrible, clumsy mess of a script, but there are good things to be said about Shiver. For one, acting and production design are of the same high standard that we’ve come to expect of modern, Spanish horrorfilms, with impressive performances from the young cast-members at least boosting the films credibility. There’s a couple of decent suspense-sequences and one genuinely horrifying scene, but compared to a recent Spanish film like The Orphanage this one comes out weaker on all fronts. It’s not exactly boring and there’s some decent gore from time to time (ankle-slicing seems to have come into fashion again), although none really worth mentioning. The finale is more or less an obvious rip-off of Nakata’s Dark Water and the twist at the end is so stupid I laughed out loud.
You won’t be bored senseless, but unless you’re able to laugh at the heavy clichés and predictable plot-twists or, for some reason, you’re very scared of dirty, little girls, you won’t remember this film past the closing credits either.