APRIL 29, 2009
It’s not often you see a movie that introduces the main character as a familiar horror movie monster and then forgets to actually work that into the rest of the movie, but that’s what Shiver (Spanish: Eskalofrío) does. Our lead has photophobia, which means he can’t go into the sun. But he also has sharp fangs, which as far as I know, is not a common side effect of his ailment. So I’m guessing he’s actually a vampire.
But that doesn’t matter, because neither his photophobia, his teeth, or (eventually) the character at all really have any bearing on the story. The disease is mainly an excuse for them to live in such a dreary locale, and partially explain why he's quiet and moody (besides for the fact that he's a teenager in a horror movie). The end of the film finds him lying on the floor doing nothing while the film's real villains battle. It’s sort of like when you watch five seasons of a TV show and notice how they gradually phase a character out of importance, albeit in a single 90 minute film. Granted, there’s nothing particularly interesting about the guy besides his ailment, but still, let him DO something in the finale, even as a reward for sticking around so long.
I also wonder if the folks who made The Haunting In Connecticut saw this before scripting their movie. It’s not the same genre, but it’s interesting how both films start off with an overworked mother and her sick son, fed up with dealing with medical issues, moving to a new town that will allow him to have a slightly easier time with it (in this case, the village get almost no sunlight). It stuck out because very few horror films feature a dynamic between a still attractive mother and a son in his late teens to begin with, let alone with all this medical nonsense. Hell, the two actors even resemble the ones in CT. Weird.
Anyway, it’s not that bad of a movie. I dug the subtle approach for the most part, and director Isidro Ortiz stages some effective sequences (particularly a “hunt” with the “hero” and his two friends early in the film). And the idea of blending genres is kind of cool, I actually had no idea how to label this one (a vampire investigates what he thinks is a monster, that turns out to be a feral child kept hidden by evil humans. What would YOU call it?). I just wish it all came together in a more cohesive way. Paying off even ONE of the horror angles would have been sufficient.
Back to the evil humans thing (spoilers ahead), it’s pretty weird how at the exact moment I wrote down “landlord” in my notes, he suddenly revealed himself as the villain. I had written it down because I liked how, for once, the kind landlord character didn’t disappear from the story once the family had settled into their house (like, I dunno, Haunting in Connecticut!). And this landlord was particularly kind, so I guess I should have seen it coming. Then again, we already had a vampire and a feral child, so I wasn’t really looking for any other plot elements.
Another issue is that far too much time is spent on a cop investigating the “hero” kid for the murders. We know perfectly well that he’s not the killer, because we saw a blurry shape thing kill the guy while the “hero” watched. We also have seen a few “monster POV” shots. So why waste screentime on something that we know isn’t the case? It’s just like Wolfen taking up 10-15 minutes with some nonsense about terrorists. If anything, the characters in a horror film should know more than the audience, not the other way around. Maybe if it was legitimately played as a mystery, it would be fine, but we know he’s innocent before he’s even officially accused by the cops. It’s like a red herring in reverse.
But I dunno, story issues aside, there was something about the movie I dug. It’s nice to see a Spanish horror flick that isn’t about ghosts for once (though given the kitchen sink attitude, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some at one point), plus it’s well acted and features an interesting locale. A few more drafts of the script and this would be an outright gem, but as is it’s merely an acceptable way to kill 90 minutes and maybe learn some Spanish while you’re at it (Speaking of which - this is my 3rd foreign language film in a row. Tomorrow's better be in Ingles!).
What say you?