I’ve been on a foreign horror tear for awhile, to get me past Hollywood’s current obsession with torture porn and remakes. As I’ve been scouring the globe for terrifying treats I’ve come to the conclusion that nobody’s doing horror like the Spanish, who have not only been churning out consistently entertaining and well made horror, but have also been infusing these films with charm, wit, style, and a surprising amount of heart. This is evident in the fairy tale style storytelling of such films as “Pan’s Labyrinth”, “The Orphanage”, and, most recently, the excellent “Shiver”, which now makes its bow on Region 1 DVD courtesy of MPI/Dark Sky.
Santi (Junio Valverde of “The Devil’s Backbone”) is a teenager who suffers from photosensitivity to sunlight, and must live in the shadows, both figuratively and literally, to avoid the effects of the light as well as the cruelty of his peers. As his disease progresses, Santi’s mother, Julia (Mar Sodupe), is advised to take her son away to one of the smaller villages in the valleys up north, where the days are shorter, and the villages are bathed in the shadows of the surrounding mountains. Santi and Julia make the move, and, almost instantly upon arriving in the rural village, Santi is, once again, targeted by bullies and superstitious locals. Things rapidly get worse as a spate of brutal murders in the woods has the townspeople pointing their fingers at the “vampire” Santi, leaving it up to him and his few remaining allies to solve the mystery and clear his name.
Shiver is a very fun, somewhat lighthearted, and very touching horror story that reminded me of classic adolescent horror faire like “Monster Squad” (sans the comedy) and “The Lost Boys” in that the perspective is clearly that of a young person dealing with the sort of issues that affect young people, all the while trying to convince adults of the existence of something that only a young person would believe in – in this case, a feral human/monster in the woods. It’s also a horror film in the most classic sense of the word, with more of a focus on thrills and chills than on gore (although there’s some of that, as well). While the production values aren’t quite up to the standard of the aforementioned Pan’s or The Orphanage (Shiver was produced by a Spanish television channel) director, Isidro Ortiz (Fausto 5.0), still manages to put together a great looking film, and the young Valverde turns in a blistering (no pun intended) performance as the beleaguered Santi.
MPI/Dark Sky scares up Shiver in a nearly flawless 1:85.1 widescreen anamorphic transfer that offers a great balance in the film’s many darker sequences. The only extra, sadly, is the film’s trailer.
Shiver is a creepy and clever little horror flick, big on scares and bigger on heart. Fans of Spanish horror (or Spanish cinema, in general) will find much to love, here, while those yet to fully immerse themselves in the ways and offerings of Europe’s new horror hotspot will find that Shiver’s terror and tenderness aren’t likely to be lost in translation.