Based on the novel by Brian Harper and directed by Julian Richards who helmed The Last Horror Movie a decade back, 2012's Shiver begins at a hole in the wall restaurant called Cadillac Jacks where a serial killer known only as The Gryphon (John Jarratt) murders his latest victim. Like a lot of serial killers, he takes a trophy each kill, specifically their heads, and his penchant for cruelty seems to know no bounds. He's got the city of Portland more or less on lockdown and has left a trail of dead young women behind him. He's also quite clever and has been able to remain a few steps ahead of the local authorities, much to the dismay of the man in charge of the case, Detective Sebastian Delgado (Casper van Dien).
As he continues to make his mark on the city he finds his next victim in the form of Wendy Alden (Danielle Harris), a very pretty but fairly reserved woman who works as a secretary. When he makes his move, she manages to successfully fight back and escape certain death at his hands. Wisely, she goes to the cops who get her under their protection immediately. The Gryphon, however, knows that she can help the police figure out who he is and so his obsession with taking her out only grows deeper. As the cops try to catch him before he kills again and adds more severed heads to his collection, The Gryphon ramps up his efforts to kill Wendy and when he once again outsmarts the cops and gets to his target, things don't look so good for our poor heroine…
What makes this movie different from all of the countless other serial killer inspired horror pictures out there is the transition that we see Harris' character go through. She starts as meek, mild and shy. Despite the fact that she's broke she doesn't even have the guts to confront her boss and ask for a raise. Once she escapes The Gryphon, we see her confidence increase and as the events that take place in the second part of the movie unfold, her character changes in interesting ways. This gives Harris, who is quite a capable actress, a decent part to play and lets her flesh Wendy out and make her more interesting than your average ‘pretty girl stalked by psychopath' from whatever other generic slasher type film you'd care to name. At the same time, as this happens, the movie starts to borrow a little bit from The Silence Of The Lambs. Without wanting to spoil it, we won't go into too much detail but the similarities are there. The rest of the cast do fine as well. Van Dien is fine as the top cop and look for Rae Dawn Chong in a supporting role as another member of the police force. Jarratt does well enough as the heavy in the movie, he's got good screen presence, but the best performance in the picture does belong to Harris, in part because she has the most to do.
While the film isn't particularly concerned with realism (The Gryphon is, in many ways, a super villain more than a believable human character but in the context of a work of fiction, this is perfectly acceptable) it does manage to create some solid tension and offer up a couple of decent scares. The emphasis here is more on psychological horror than straight out gore, though the film has a bit of nasty violence here and there so it's not like it completely abandons that staple, nor does it necessarily need to in order to work. Our antagonist rants and rages like a lunatic at times, making you wonder if maybe Batman might appear to take him out rather than a regular cop, but again, in the context of the movie it's fine.
Ultimately, Richards isn't really bringing anything all that new to the serial killer movie, though what he provides is at least entertaining. Harris makes this worth seeing if you have an interest in the genre, so long as you go in understanding that at times this can be a bit by the numbers. It is, however, gritty and atmospheric and fairly entertaining.
Image presents Shiver in a 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that generally looks very good. This is a pretty dark looking movie shot in a lot of grimy looking locations so don't expect a super color picture, but the image quality here would seem to represent the director's intentions well enough. There are no issues with print damage or debris as this was shot digitally. Some minor compression artifacts pop up in some of the really dark scenes and there's a bit of crush but outside of that the picture is pretty good.
The only audio option on the disc is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix though optional English closed captioning is provided as well. There's decent range here and the surround channels are used to relay some good directional effects. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion and the levels are well balanced. A pretty solid track with nice atmosphere to it.
Extras? Nope, just a static menu and chapter selection, that's it.
Danielle Harris fans will want to check Shiver out because she's quite good in it and is given a nice, substantial role that lets her show off her ability. Outside of that? This is a decent enough horror picture with some good atmosphere and a few decent scares. It's not the most realistic film in the world but if you keep that in mind going in, it doesn't have to be. Despite the fact that we've seen a lot of this before, Shiver still entertains and Image's DVD looks and sounds quite nice. Even if the disc is barebones, if you're a fan of the genre you can consider it recommended.
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.