Indie horror is always a strange beast, as productions can either shell out significant dough for big-name talent, or they can invest in practical effects work and crazy, bloody action – but not both (typically). It’s a shame budgetary constraints plague projects, but it also speaks volumes when a director can overcome such hurdles and create a surprising genre hit hidden amidst a slew of similar films. Shiver is unfortunately one of the films that secured some serious genre star power in Danielle Harris, John Jarratt, and Casper Van Dien, but doesn’t really stack up in other places. Danielle Harris is a Scream Queen legend these days, and John Jarratt has been making a name by playing psychopaths, but a weakly structured story didn’t let these stars truly break out. There wasn’t a shiver, shutter, or squirm to be had during Julian Richards’ latest – don’t let the name fool you.
Danielle Harris plays Wendy Allen, a woman being targeted by a serial killer who calls himself “The Griffin” (John Jarratt). Escaping his first attack, Wendy works with the local police in an attempt to capture a killer who has already taken the lives of numerous women, but as she tries to stay safe, “The Griffin” is always able to stay one step ahead. Time after time, Wendy thinks the worst is behind her, but “The Griffin” reveals he has much bigger plans for our protagonist. Becoming an object of obsession, Wendy tries to outsmart her stalker with the help of Detective Sebastian Delgado (Casper Van Dien), which proves to be a dangerous chore. Will Wendy find peace, putting an end to “The Griffin,” or will he find one more victim for his creepy collection.
John Jarratt turns in a momentarily creepy performance as “The Griffin,” but instead of staying consistently creepy, Jarratt’s character turns cartoonishly over exaggerated and his personality turns from a vicious serial killer to that of a creepy uncle. A lame creepy uncle who won’t stop jabbering on and giving his victims chances to escape. I completely understand that when you have a presence like John Jarratt, you want to work him in any way you can, and Shiver tries to do so by establishing “The Griffin” as a psychological mindf#cker who torments his victims, but his dialogue was horribly lame and unintentionally funny. The more “The Griffin” talked, the more this horror movie lost all terror. Sometimes it’s perfectly fine to have a horror killer who stands and stares, but when you pay for a name like John Jarratt, you have to use him – I just wish he was used correctly.
Danielle Harris tries her best to carry viewers through Shiver, but the silliness of Jarratt’s advances becomes ludicrous after the umpteenth time he pops up without warning, or when his car explodes for no foreseeable reason. Harris tries to use her Scream Queen status to bolster her helpless victim performance, but a very unnerving soap-opera type feel takes over while the slasher aspect of Robert D. Weinbach’s adapted screenplay is abandoned to create some sort of weird psychological drama. Harris plays a much better aggressor than she does a victim though, in my opinion at least, and unfortunately she gets stuck in this weak mentality where everyone around her essentially has to protect her. This is not where Harris shines, but it’s unfortunately what Shiver asks of her.
Getting back to Jarratt’s lame killer, this is yet another movie in a long line of films that lets its murderer always win with no rules. No matter what Harris’ character did, Jarratt was right behind her, killing anyone and everyone in his way – off camera mostly. It’s that cheesy, predictable type of filmmaking that lets Harris fall asleep safe, and wake up with “The Griffin” holding her boyfriend’s body. Um, what? How? Who? Why? Whatever, cue more laughable dialogue from our overly egotistical villain, and commence audience eye-rolling.
Shiver is nothing but a bargain barrel snooze-fest without an ounce of tension to be found. In an admirable attempt to solidify top-notch actors who bring experience and respectability, every other aspect of Julian Richards’ film takes a backseat. It’s one thing to get names like John Jarratt and Danielle Harris, but it’s another thing to utilize their massive talents properly – not letting them ham up serial killers or play bland, generic roles. Maybe if “The Griffin” did a little less yapping and a little more killing, Jarratt could have created the monster Shiver so desperately needed – but that thought is nothing but a wild fantasy now.