Reviewed by: Chris

Santi is a young lad with a strange disease. Bright sunlight has him running for cover. Not surprisingly, he’s a hoodie with sunglasses. Mum is a translator. She works from home. Parents are separated but on good terms. Santi also gets bullied a lot (he’s very bully-able – you could want to cosset or kick him).

Doctor persuades Mum to take Santi to a remote village. Less sunlight, you see. But kids pick on him there too. They don’t understand his disease and treat him as a wimp. Shortly afterwards, locals turn on him. Especially when sheep are eviscerated, and a bully murdered. And we know there’s Something Nasty In The Woods. A waiting game is to see whether Shiver implodes in orgiastic excess of CGI, vampires, werewolves, radiation mutants, CIA viruses, supernatural gore or other well-worn concoctions. Remarkably, it doesn’t. Even when the attacker is revealed, momentum keeps going and we can enjoy a mix of terror with fairly down-to-earth explanations.

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Like many other genres, horror can be more about minor deviation from clichés than whole new formulae. But although the Shiver ‘monster’ avoids paths too well-trodden, the backdrop of the film is highly derivative. A flitting in the trees reminds me of Predator. Farmer and policeman are stereotypes. Santi discovers truth and, guess what – his parents don’t want to know. Santi susses things out on Google – the current answer for every geek-on-a-mission. And the night vision camera thing is all a bit too Blair Witch.

Low-budget interactions and nice scenery are mixed with occasional fast editing, unnerving sounds, jolting cameras, and horrific dream sequences. Director Isidro Ortiz says he wanted, “to build a monster thriller where the monsters are the heroes, and where you must flee from the light to take refuge in the darkness. A back-to-front tale.” This sophisticated theoretical foundation is almost more interesting than the movie itself. “I wanted the film to have two kinds of monsters,” he continues determinedly, “those which are such because they’re ‘different’ and cannot adapt to what society defines as ‘normal’, and those which are real monsters and hide their dark side while they look like a model of social behaviour.” Wow! Is this film really deep? Or is the depth flown in afterwards as P.R.-flavoured gibberish? It sounds sensible enough, but out of place when referring to such a low-brainer.

To Ortiz’s credit, he trimmed down his original plan to avoid relying on American budgets, but the end result, while enjoyable enough, falls slightly short of the grand concepts he envisages. It does keep you guessing for a bit but, although decently acted, characterisation and dialogue do not have the profundity to redeem such aspirations.

On the plus side, this is a broad appeal ‘horror’ film. It isn’t offensively gory, and it has an almost warm cosy feel to it. But in other words, it’s a bit of a girly horror. A nice little movie with some atmospheric tension, and maybe not quite enough to satisfy late-night fans.

Reviewed on: 19 Jun 2008
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A teenager suffering from a debilitating illness moves to a small town only to encounter more bullies - plus something worse waiting in the woods.

Director: Isidro Ortiz

Writer: Hernán Migoya, José Gamo, José Gamo, Alejandro Hernández, Isidro Ortiz

Starring: Junio Valverde, Blanca Suárez, Jimmy Barnatán, Mar Sodupe, Francesc Orella, Paul Berrondo, Josep Maria Domènech, Roberto Enríquez, Andrés Herrera, Katia Klein, Blanca Martínez

Year: 2008

Runtime: 91 minutes

Country: Spain


EIFF 2008

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