Shiver (US - DVD R1)
Gabe checks out the latest in a long line of really good looking Spanish horror...
Santi (Junio Valverdi) is an unhappy teen who suffers from a rare and violent allergy to direct sunlight. As his condition and relationship with other kids at school worsens, he and his mother are forced to move to a remote village in the mountains. But something vicious is alive deep in this shadowy forest, and it’s hungry. It started killing sheep, but has since moved on to the locals, and now it has its eye on Santi.
Spanish horror has really been kicking ass as of late. Things have actually evolved to a point where the very mention of the genre and the country in the same sentence is enough to get me salivating a bit. Like any good ‘movement’ Spanish horror has its frontrunners, the likes of Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, Álex de la Iglesia, Alejandro Amenábar, and Guillemero del Toro. But when these filmmakers begin to grow outside of their comfort zones new blood is required, and so far even the young guys are doing a bang up job. Of course, at a certain point all stereotypes backfire, and assuming a Spanish horror movie is going to be a good movie is a stupid thing to do.
Shiver (aka: Eskalofrío) gets off to a really strong start, mixing the oldest horror standbys with some new ideas (seemingly). For at least half the runtime I was more or less convinced that I was watching a clever rendition of the now largely passé Vampires vs. Werewolf story (spoiler: I was wrong). Writer/director Isidro Ortiz’s visual style is just unique enough to keep the over plotting interesting while still fulfilling our expectations of new Spanish horror. Besides a surprisingly un-threatening villain, everything’s lining up for a fun time at the movies, if not a del Toro level experience.
Then things start to go wrong. The first inkling comes when Santi and his mother moves to the mountain village, and the first ten minutes of the movie begin to feel entirely inconsequential, as mostly new characters and conflicts are introduced. Then Ortiz starts forgetting the seemingly important character trait—Santi’s light aversion—which only seems to affect him when it’s convenient. By the third act it’s pretty clear that Santi is just making things up as he goes along, and that he doesn’t have a greater plan for the picture. The movie ends with a climax that doesn’t really make any sense, and by that time Ortiz’s vague directorial control has lost its charms, as has Santi, who never steps up to plate as a hero.
The movie itself may have been a disappointment, but Dark Sky doesn’t do any ball dropping on this 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer. The overall print is textured with more than a little grain, but it’s all kept very fine. The stylized darkness of the frame plays havoc with some of the finer graphic details, and leads to some slight blocky noise, but the general deepness of the blacks is nice. Besides a few dream sequences most of the film is pretty desaturated, so there isn’t too much to say about the brightness or naturalness of the colours, but the few we get are solid and naturally gradated.
Shiver sounds more or less precisely how I assumed it would, given its young age and Dark Sky’s usual treatment of new material. Generally speaking the Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish track is pretty subtle and quiet, but the creepy ambiance isn’t lost or muddled either. Audibly speaking there are basically three kinds of scenes in Shiver—quiet indoor discussions, creepy outdoor scare scenes, and hyper-real dream sequences. All three types are cleanly represented on the disc, but for your top dollar the scare scenes, with their surround effects, and ghost story ambiance are your best bet. Fernando Velázquez’s generally predictable but effective score is discreetly blended into the mix, but also the most reliable source of warm, throbby bass.
This is where our expectations in Dark Sky are dashed. Given the wealth of extras found on the studio’s other new release discs, and many of their catalogue titles for that matter, a simple trailer is a pretty big disappointment.
Shiver is a disappointment overall. It comes out of the gate with class and a touch of originality, but quickly stumbles over its own messy script. The final product is just good enough to require a rent from the most rabid fans of new Spanish horror, but keep your expectations low. This review really hurts to write because little company Dark Sky seems so excited about the product, and I want to see them open up to more new releases, but I just can’t get excited about this particular product.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 28th October 2008
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Easter Egg: No
Director: Isidro Ortiz
Cast: Mar Sodupe, Francesc Orella, Roberto Enraquez, Junio Valverde, Andres Herrera
Length: 91 minutes