Sunday, 2 October 2011

Watched - no 21 - Shiver (Isidro Ortiz, 2008)

Isidro Ortiz's Shiver (a translation of Eskalofrio), is the latest in a growing number of Spanish horror/fantasy films to have followed in the wake of Guillermo del Toro's 2006 masterpiece Pan's Labyrinth. With the releases of the del Toro produced El Orfanato/The Orphanage (Juan Antonio Bayona, 2007), Elio Quiroga's La Hora Fria/The Dark Hour (2006), Nacho Vigalondo's superb Los Cronocrimines/Timecrimes (2007) and the [Rec] series (which sees Paco Plaza's [Rec]3: Genesis released next year), an intriguing, if not always succesful, collection of movies is taking shape. Ortiz's film, made in 2008 and released on DVD on the 17th of October, which blends vampiric themes and rural horror with straight up thriller elements is a moderately successful entry into this group; competently directed and performed if not original or genuinely scary enough to make it a must see.

Shiver stars Junio Valverde, who had a small role in del Toro's El Espinazo del Diablo/The Devil's Backbone in 2001, as Santi, a troubled teenager suffering from photophobia - an abnormal reaction to light - labelled a freak and a vampire by his bullying peers, resigned to his outsiderdom and living in Barcelona with his caring but weary mother Julia (Mar Sodupe). On doctor's orders, mother and son relocate to a tiny sun deprived village in rural Spain to allow Santi to live a more 'normal' life. What follows is a deft but familar tale as a series of murders and animal killings make the relations between the wary villagers and new arrivals tense to the point of outright hatred as accusatory fingers are pointed in the direction of the 'vampire' Santi. Suffice to say that everything is far from what it first appears, as the surrounding woods begin to loom ever larger in matters and the house Santi and Julia move into begins to turn up unexpected secrets. There's a diverting but not fully rounded mix of themes and genre traits in Shiver, some nicely done - the struggles of existing outside of regular society, explored in a number of characters - and some little more than puffer sub-plots - Santi's tentative relationship with local girl Angela (Blanca Suarez) being the one that sticks in the mind. The fact that four screenwriters are credited points to why Shiver appears at times to be two or three different movies fighting for space.

Aesthetically Shiver has a fittingly bleached out, oppressive atmosphere (though if I never see another night-vision sequence it'll be too soon) and the score works well in ratcheting up the tension when required. Though the film follows a fairly predictable path it's an enjoyable enough experience getting to the endpoint even if the climax itself is a bit of a shoulder shrugging moment. Ortiz has the look and feel of genre movies down well and with stronger material could well go on to direct something that really catches the attention.

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