Movie Review: “Shiver”

Shiver is a film I went into blindly, stumbling on it while browsing the free Tubi streaming service. It is a tactic I don’t deploy often, because it so often leads to a negative review here on the Nightmare Shift. The fact is, a lot of films are made and not all of them are created equal. I believe I am very in touch with the horror genre, and so, it isn’t very often I stumble across a good film I hadn’t had at least heard some prior mention of. In spite of that, while I don’t always do it, I try to make sure to do it as often as I can. Sometimes you will discover a new gem amidst the rubble, and if I can spotlight that film, I consider it a privilege.

Another reason I wanted to watch it is because of the involvement of Danielle Harris and my desire to sift through her horror filmography for the Nightmare Shift. I like Danielle Harris and, in a lot of ways, I believe the Halloween franchise doesn’t always appreciate her for helping to keep the torch lit with the sequels (no disrespect to Judy Greer, but I would have loved her to have played Laurie Strode’s daughter in the reboot series).

Julian Richards directs a script written by Robert Weinbach based on a novel of the same name by Brian Harper.

Richards is a lesser known director, but he has a handful of horror movies you might have heard of – The Last Horror Movie, for example. His 1997 film Darklands was apparently the first homegrown Welsh horror film. Pretty cool.

This thriller film about a low self-esteemed woman who finds herself the target of a heinous serial killer.

As a film, Shiver is not your usual run-of-the-mill dumpster dive into the archives of obscurity. I know I’ve seen a lot of them, and I’m certain many of you have too. I’ve seen the mutated hillbillies that run around cornfields, chainsaws in-hand, cease and desist letter in the mail. I’ve seen a hundred-dozen ripoffs of Friday the 13th, which in itself was a cash-in on Halloween, and I know I will see many more before it is all said and finished.

Shiver isn’t that, but, instead, it is kind of just absolutely bonkers altogether. At first, I thought I knew what to expect from it. Our antagonist is one of those artsy serial killers, you know the kind. We’ve seen them a lot in films, and other than in special circumstances like, say, Hannibal, they usually play out about the same way each time. This character is fairly familiar in that respect, but what happens in the film is all kinds of absurdity. This is the type of film that doesn’t ask you for suspension of disbelief, it demands it lest you want your fragile mind to shatter before its goofy plot.

I didn’t immediately recognize in the film, but John Jarratt is the serial killer. You may have seen him in the Wolf Creek films. His character in this film is similar to that.

The character is animated, for lack of a better word for it. I can never exactly say for certain whether I believe he is doing a good job in the role or if he is doing a bad job, and it’s peculiar for the line between the two to feel as thin as it does. I can never tell whether I feel he is going all in on the role or if it feels a performance, it is definitely campy, however. It’s a little like he goes so over the top that he came back around again.

Shiver feels like it has a lot to say, but doesn’t actually seem to know how to say it in a real, organic way. For instance, you know how I briefed earlier how Danielle Harris’ character had low self-esteem? This is a reoccurring theme in the film. Whether it be when she is verbally cut down by her mother, or when she struggles to ask her boss for a raise.

However, the film doesn’t handle it smoothly, and when it wants to highlight that aspect of the character, it does so in a way that always feels abrupt and ham-fist. This can be seen really noticeably during a phone-call conversation between her and her mother where it feels like the whole purpose is to wedge as much exposition and backstory into the conversation as possible.

This all calls back to the antagonist – our serial killer is a misogynistic, power-hungry murderer, desperate for the type of control that has never afforded to him in his normal life.

There’s a yin-and-yang here, of one controlling person with an ego and one person who has been beaten down and needs to claim control. It makes sense and I can see what they’re going for, but they never seem to present it in a way that feels cohesive or coherent.

I want to make you understand how absurd this film is, but I can’t do so without outright saying a lot of what happens. This is a film with car chases and the type of police shenanigans you would expect out of a corny comic book film. Again, suspension of disbelief. You will need it.

The third-quarter of the film is the best of the film. This is when all the other white noise quiets down. There is no shenanigans or police procedural subplots happening in the background, it’s simply the protagonist and the antagonist. It isn’t exactly anything we haven’t seen, but this is when both characters are allowed to do the legwork in their development. John Jarratt is allowed to be horror movie crazy and Danielle Harris’ character survives, looking for an opportunity to arise. There are some little flashes that show the perverse thoughts in the antagonists’ mind, and he is allowed to become fifty shades of awful. This is, for the most part, what I think the whole film should’ve been. This could’ve worked.

Unfortunately, that isn’t what the film is, and after that brief quarter is over, the film goes ahead and finds a way to double-up on its own absurdity.

In the end, Shiver doesn’t pay dividends for my blind foray into the unknown. I wanted to like it. I can imagine a film with Jarratt and Harris that I would have liked. There are even scenes in the film I could imagine elongated and making a better film. However, that wasn’t the film we received. This film is chalk full of head scratching moments and I can’t recommend it. 

Rating: – 2.3 out of 5.0