While all films that come out of Hong Kong may not be up to par by way of horror standards, there are a select few that gain a certain amount of notoriety for shocking imagery, violence and brutality. The most famous of these films, of course, being the Untold Story, set an exceptionally high bar for forthcoming horror films made in the region. While Japan, and more recently Korea, take the bulk of the praise for their genre releases, one Hong Kong flick from 2003 deserves a decent amount of credit for ingenuity, Shiver.
On their way home and in the midst of a tense argument, Sammy (Chu) and Kwok (Ng) are caught in a nasty little traffic jam. While being berated by his wife, Kwok, an off-duty investigator, witnesses a bank robbery in progress. Defying his wife's pleads, Kwok enters the fracas with the bank robber, unknowingly killing a young girl while returning gun fire. He glances back at his car and notices that his wife has also suffered a gunshot wound to the head. Kwok rushes his wife to the hospital where she becomes comatose, but ultimately makes a recovery from the near fatal injury.
Once recovered, Sammy begins to have strange visions of a dead girl and also of crime scenes featuring high profile murder victims. Even more strange is that her husband is called to the same crime scenes in real life, a tie that becomes both mystifying and troubling to the recovering Sammy. Kwok once again immerses himself in his work and ignores the pleas for help from his ailing wife as her visions become more vivid and disturbing. Finally, Sammy gives into her visions and stumbles upon a murder victim before the cops are aware of the situation. Kwok must then confront the notion that there is a serial killer loose in Hong Kong, and that his wife may have something to do with the murders.
Although the element of the supernatural is consistently present in Shiver with Sammy's visions of a dead girl, (dressed in white, with black hair of course!) the jist of the movie leans more towards Seven and Saw. Slow to develop, but quickly snowballing into a serial killer flick, Shiver is a quirky film that engulfs the viewer's attention, constantly feeding new elements into the plot. At times the viewer may feel a bit overwhelmed by the events that unfold, but director Billy Chung carefully constructs the movie so that there is a "cool down" point towards the end of the film that delicately explains the plot to the fullest.
The films obvious strongpoint is the acting and character development, with Athena Chu blazing a wicked trail of insanity. Not far behind are both Nick Cheung as Dr. Ko Chun and Francis Ng, as the over-worked, apathetic cop/husband. The plot may be a bit cluttered at times, but the relief lies in the sensational characters and emotion built throughout the film.
Another wonderful surprise to the Hong Kong release is the availability of special features on a disc that usually comes bare from the specified region. Although a bit thin by mainstream standards, the All Region disc I purchased offers up a blooper reel, a making of featurette, cast and crew biographies and a couple trailers for HK horror releases.
Overall, Shiver is a rather solid film with a nice backing of features that will definitely add some muscle to the thin selection of decent Hong Kong horror films currently available. The plot itself won't blow you away, but the performances by Chu, Ng and Cheung make Shiver one of the more worthwhile titles to pick up.