The Shiver of the Vampires (also known as Strange Things Happen at Night, or the original French title Le Frisson des Vampires) is a bizarre funhouse of tones and ideas. From the first twang of the film's awesome rock 'n roll soundtrack, it's clear that this isn't going to fit people's traditional idea of what they expect from a "vampire movie." The next morning, the two cousins reappear, looking rather pale and hinting so strongly at their newfound lust for blood that the ensuing conversation is borders on slapstick comedy, complete with ridiculous physical comedy on the part of Robiolles and Delahaye. All in all, the film's three bloodsuckers spend more time working their jaws talking about what it's like being an undead creature than actually sinking their teeth into anyone's neck.
While the cousins and Isolde muse about their new nightlife, director/co-writer Jean Rollin proves himself as much a visual artist as a philosophical one, bathing the film in vivid colors and never resisting the chance to capture an unforgettable image, like the reflection of candle flame in the eye sockets of a skull in a fishbowl, or Isolde's unique and unforgettable entrance, which is both so brilliantly simple and wonderfully creepy that I wouldn't dare spoil it. Four of the film's five actresses frequently wander around nude, and Rollin captures it in a way that seems more hypnotic than salacious. Some of his images are even funny: a scene where Antoine is trapped in a library concludes with a note that is both logical and intentionally silly.
Although the combination of conversation and iconic imagery may sound a little disjointed, the story is also handled very well, moving along at a matter-of-fact pace despite all of the little detours. As one day turns into several, Antoine becomes suspicious of Isle's cousins' motives, and starts trying to convince Isle that they need to leave before it's too late. Admittedly, Julien's performance is on the flat side, reciting her devotion and love for her cousins in an emotionless way (it's hard not to want more of that backstory, given how unsatisfying her delivery is), but she shows some signs of life during a scene where her growing bloodlust crosses paths with a dead bird that's simultaneously skin-crawling and amusing. Thankfully, Durand does the dramatic heavy lifting, going from confused but supportive to emotionally devastated as his new wife starts slipping away from him.
The most frightening aspect of many modern horror films is their predictability: hack, slash, repeat. Only after seeing a film like The Shiver of the Vampires does one appreciate all the places horror can go; it reminded me of the recent cult discovery House in all the best ways: not only is it artistic, but it's also just plain fun to watch (I have to admit I found myself yelling at the characters a couple of times!). Although the film isn't going to please any random filmgoer looking for straightforward thrills and chills, but film fans and horror aficionados will eat it up. It's a delirious, infectious, and totally bizarre concoction that leaps off the screen with a sense of "anything-goes" inventiveness and creativity.
The Video and Audio
Original theatrical trailers for The Shiver of the Vampires are included in both French and English. There are also four bonus trailers, for Rollin's films The Nude Vampire, The Iron Rose, Lips of Blood, and Fascination.