From rising Spanish director Isidro Ortiz, the man who helmed Fausto 5.0, comes Shiver, the story of a young boy named Santi (Junio Valverde) who suffers from a nasty skin condition that requires him to stay out of the sunlight. This results in his being bullied and made fun of by the other kids at his school and since his grades aren't so hot, his mother decides that they should move out of the city to a remote town out in the country. As an added bonus, it's a pretty dark place and it doesn't seem to get as much sunlight as where they currently live.
After the move, things seem to be shaping up nicely in Santi's favor. Life is reasonably calm and he's adapting to his new environment nicely. This all changes fairly quickly, however, when some of the local kids start picking on him just as the kids back in the city did. Soon, someone or something starts prowling the woods around the small town, killing off everyone who comes into contact with it. The suspicious locals think that Santi is responsible for the murders and that he must be a vampire, but Santi knows he's innocent. If it isn't him, then who is responsible for the increasing body count?
Dark Sky's packaging proudly touts 'from the producer of Pan's Labyrinth and The Orphanage' but don't mistake this for a Guillermo del Toro project, because it's not. That said, director Isidro Ortiz manages to create some compelling atmosphere and provide a few decent scares as this ninety-five minute dark fairy tale plays out. What works about the picture, aside from the superb visual style, is the lead performance from Junio Valverde who plays the meek and nerdy Santi with just the right amount of pathos and believability that we're able to invest in and relate to his character. This makes it easy to think that Shiver better than it really is - it's a very good looking film with some good acting.
That said, the film has problems, most of which stem from genre clichés. There are moments in here where you'll swear Ortiz is channeling from The Blair Witch project and the plot is very, very predictable. So while we're able to get in Santi's corner enough to care for the poor bugger, when we know where it's all going and what's going to happen to him, this makes our investment one with a poor return. The score is good and the make up effects relatively eerie but much of the horror has little impact in the long term and you can't help but feel that this one was made for a younger audience as scenes that should have shocked or unsettled us instead wind up feeling tepid and understated. There's absolutely room for subtlety in the genre, but when it comes at the cost of the scares that should keep the tension mounting and the audience enthralled, then maybe a bit more gore could help.
The movie builds nicely in the first half but the pay off isn't what it needs to be and while you can appreciate the look and the performances that Ortiz has captured on what we can safely assume is a fairly low budget, the story itself just can't hold the momentum it starts with.
Shiver arrives on DVD in a nice 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that does a pretty good job of presenting the film in a clean, clear and colorful manner. There are some minor compression artifacts noticeable in a couple of the darker scenes but aside from that, the image is pretty stable. The color scheme for the film may not blow you away but you can't fault the transfer for that, it presents the bleak looking and darker moments in just the right way ensuring that the intended look of the film remains intact. Detail levels are good and skin tones look lifelike and natural and there aren't any issues with print damage, dirt or debris.
You can watch the film by way of a Spanish language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix or by way of either English or Spanish language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo tracks with optional subtitles provided in English only. The English track features noticeably louder levels than either of the Spanish tracks for some reason, and the dubbing doesn't help the film much. If your hardware is good for it, opt for the 5.1 mix as it adds a bit of atmosphere and ambience to a couple of scenes and does a better job of spreading out the score than the 2.0 tracks do. All in all, the audio is fine.
Aside from some animated menus and chapter selection for the feature itself, the only extra on this DVD is the film's original theatrical trailer, presented in anamorphic widescreen.
Shiver isn't a great movie by any stretch but despite a messy plot and some confusing themes, there are some decent performances and a few interesting ideas that might make it of interest for genre fans. Dark Sky's DVD debut is light on extras but makes good use of a solid transfer and provides decent audio as well. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.