Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Shiver – review

dvdDirected by: Isidro Ortiz

Release date: 2008

Contains spoilers

There is a degree of pity connected in with this film from Spain, called in Spanish Eskalofrío, as it tries to do something interesting. It re-interprets the vampire and the werewolf movie without either creature actually being in the film. Yet, despite the cleverness of this it manages to get lost en route. Indeed the more I thought about this the more lost it seemed.

burning in the sunThe sun rises over the city and Santi (Junio Valverde) runs against the sun, trying to stay in shadow and failing. The sun catches him and it hurts, he continues to run but it burns, his face blistering , bleeding from his nose, melting, bursting into flames. He awakes and screams. One of the best vampire in the sun sequences I have seen for some time and it is a dream.

developing fangsOr should I say a nightmare, as Santi suffers from an allergy to sunlight, and is, due to his condition, an outsider. It appears that he goes to a night school – although this was hazy – and he tends to steal photos and stick his own head in them. All this was somewhat vague in the exposition, however and actually seemed more of an excuse to have a disgruntled bully call him Dracula. His best friend is called Leo (Jimmy Barnatán). We hear the term Xeroderma and he is developing fangs, which is a secondary effect to his condition. Santi is not doing well, he is heading towards cancer and blindness, and his Doctor recommends a move – maybe to a Northern area where, between the Mountains and forests, there is less sun.

who killed my sheep?So Santi and his mom, Julia (Mar Sodupe), move to a mountain village where there is less sun exposure and rent a house from Dimas (Francesc Orella) – who also runs the local grocery store. The attic is full of junk still, from the previous tenants, but the house itself seems liveable. On the night they arrive a local farmer, Fabián (Andrés Herrera), hears his sheep attacked by something. The next day he plonks his eviscerated sheep in the middle of Dimas’ store.

covered in bloodSanti is able to go to school, though he must wear a hoody and dark glasses just in case. He is approached early on by Ángela (Blanca Suárez) – later we discover that she is the daughter if the local police inspector. On his second day at school a younger boy, Tito (Pau Poch), says he saw something in the woods. Tito, Santi and Jonas go into the woods – Jonas has a rifle. Something is moving and Tito runs. In the confusion Santi loses both boys and then falls over a body. He manages to flag a car, and is covered in blood.

feral creatureIt is Jonas who has been killed; his throat has been slit and his blood drunk. The locals turn on Santi, with the exception of Ángela, realising that he not only is a stranger but has fangs and avoids daylight. However a DNA test confirms he did not drink Jonas’ blood. It appears that, perhaps, the suspicions are passing when Fabián is attacked and Santi is there. Santi sees the assailant, a feral looking bipedal creature.

a vision of a vampireOf course, he is now a suspect again. His father Óscar (Paul Berrondo) shows up – and the viewer questions why as he served no real plot purpose, he could have been any random guy. Then we get another moment that makes this worthwhile. Santi is in bed when the creature enters his room it approaches him and there is a palpable terror that the boy feels. He sees a flash, seeing a vampire super-imposed over the creature.

fangs in the darkPost-flash and the creature draws closer and has sharp, monstrous teeth and then… it was a dream, but dream enough to make Santi remember that he had seen the creature before, in a photo. It was a little girl. He checks with the police and the photo is of Erica Hassel (Berta Ross) the child of the previous tenants and here things get lost severely.

Antonio is the local lawThe cops (in fact all the adults) do not believe him but a quick google and he discovers that Erica was a feral ‘wolf child’ in Africa, found by a German couple. He discovers that they brought her to a nearby asylum and, with the help of Leo who travels up to see him and Ángela, he sets out to prove that she is real and in the woods. It is assumed, by the adults, that she is in Germany and no-one seemed to know that she was once feral; all in all it is entirely a bit too convenient.

Why a feral child would be drinking blood, as opposed to eating what she hunts, is beyond me. The actuality of what is going on – Santi, our vampire, and Erica, our werewolf, are more the heroes of the piece – is all a little bit too hidden and revealed in a rush at the end of the film.

Mar Sodupe as JuliaIf we accept the sensationalism then this is rather clever – however it leaves reality at the front door whilst offering the illusion of realism. I bought, as I watched the film, Santi’s condition but was left wondering at such a harsh allergy. I less bought the feral child aspects. If this was supposed to be pure fantasy then it might have worked but my feeling was that the filmmakers intended a re-examining of the myths with a sense of reality.

Junio Valverde as SantiThat said, as I watched the film, I rather enjoyed it. There was some lovely cinematography, a darkly claustrophobic atmosphere and I was rather taken with Valverde and his performance. Yet even during the viewing I started to wonder at some of the events and a moment with digi-cam in the woods made me sigh with the words “Blair Witch” on my lips.

This wasn’t bad but, like the main character, it cannot withstand the harsh light of the day. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Amateur Vampirologist said...

"We hear the term Xeroderma and he is developing fangs, which is a secondary effect to his condition."

This reference, in the film, is most likely alluding to Xeroderma pigmentosa, a skin condition that causes heightened photo-sensitivity. It's one of several flimsy theories certain people have put forward to explain the vampire myth (like porphyria).

Taliesin_ttlg said...


I very nearly added the word pigmentosa to the review, as I was convinced that was the reference, but the film only mentioned Xeroderma...

I also nearly went into a full spiel about porphyria (as the tightening of gums can make teeth looked elongated as a secondary condition) and the fact that any popularist connection to vampirism is mostly based on a flimsy theorem by David Dolphin that does not hold up. Again it isn't mentioned in the film, so I cut that out.

Good to hear from you btw