Dir: Isidro Ortiz. Spain. 2008. 94 mins.
There's clearly a dark place in the Spanish psyche that looks a lot like a remote mountain village: films like Obaba, The Night of the Sunflowers and - of course - Pan's Labyrinth have all exploited the fright quotient of the closed rural community. Shiver (Eskalofrio) uses the same setting as the basis for a reasonably-entertaining but rarely pyrotechnic blend of horror movie and comedy-tinged coming-of-age film.
The title is something of a misnomer: though it has some enjoyably tense sequences, Shiver will produce little more than a slight tremor in hardcore horror fans, and its setpieces are way too conventional for connoiseurs of refined psychohorror.
Instead, the film courts general audiences, from dating teens to mums and dads looking for a frightfest that despite a smattering of gore never gets too nasty. On home territory it should hit the target, but elsewhere its going to have an uphill struggle to make a splash in the crowded commercial-horror niche.
Given its older teen orientation, DVD and online distribution look to be more obvious channels outside of Spain.
An it-was-all-a-dream sequence introduces us to the travails of cute16-year-old Santi (Valverde), who suffers from XP, a disease which causes him to break out in pustules if exposed to sunlight.
This at least allows him to dress as a cool hoodie in wraparound shades - but it's not enough, and Santi's sexy but stressed mother Julia (Sodupe) realises that the only thing is to take her son to live in a creepy, isolated house in a village that rarely sees the sun, buried deep in a Pyrenean valley.
We meet the unctuous landlord, a sheep-farmer with only one eye and various tight-lipped locals. Creakings in the attic and rustlings in the forest gradually up the menace until the unseen Thing strikes at one of Santi's more dispensible new schoolmates - and he begins to be fingered as public enemy number one by the increasingly hostile villagers.
His only real friend is Angela (Suarez), the daughter of the detective who's on Santi's case - and who naturally fancies his mum.
Though the film breaks one of the first rules of medium-budget horror - don't show the monster until the end, and preferably not even then - the glimpses are brief enough and the make-up professional enough not to ruin the party. One of the more attractive things about Shiver is the way that it manages not to take itself too seriously without crossing over into outright spoof.
The film is decently acted and shot, with some nice, moody landscape inserts, though its use of genre cliches like desaturated colour and Blair-Witch-style handycam footage hardly pushes back any boundaries. Here, as with the score - classical atmosphere stuff, played by our old friends the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra - Shiver seems to be content to play it safe and make as many friends as it can.
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Maria Rosa Fuster
Josep Maria Civit