What does it take to empower someone? So many people sort of get lost along the way and spend their time riding the tide of life with no control of their direction. The world is full of victims that can’t find the shore. I was reminded of this while watching Shiver, the new film by Julian Richards. In his film, The Last Horror Movie, he took us so deep into the mind of a killer that it made us uncomfortable. This time we see the mind of the victim and in this case, it is no more comforting.
Shiver begins with a murder at a local dinner called Cadillac Jacks. The murder isn’t particularly graphic but the level of cruelty is intense. It’s the look on the victim’s face that stays with you. This is how we are introduced to The Gryphon, the seriously disturbed killer played John Jarratt.
He is a man obsessed with a singular purpose, to emasculate all women. Women like Wendy Alden (Danielle Harris), a meek and lonely secretary with not much in her life. She comes home from a non-date with pal Jeffery (Shan Applegate) to find the Gryphon in her home. Using her cunning, she escapes, but this simply strengthens his resolve. Now he is a man in love and that, as they say, is a dangerous thing. With Detectives Degato and Burdine (Casper Van Dean and Rae Dawn Chong) in pursuit, a terrifying courtship is begun as the bodies pile higher and higher.
As I said, the murders in this film aren’t graphic, but cruel. The crime scene photos are frightening and paint a vivid picture in your mind, not unlike the opening scenes from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Not to compare the film to Henry because it never comes close, but it strives to be more than the sum of its (body) parts.Danielle Harris is good as always. You believe her as a quiet young woman who is getting run over by the world. The great thing is that there is a hint of damage in her eyes, something that gives the character depth, and I appreciate that. There is an aura of loneliness that permeates the film. Wendy wears it like a second skin. Danielle Harris and Julian Richards want you to relate to her, and in doing so, you can’t help but feel uncomfortably like a victim.
John Jarratt has played a psycho before but it doesn’t get old. He is scary in a very real way. Rood is not a superman by any means. There is a blurb that compares him to Hannibal Lector; I think that this actually takes away from the character. He is determined and smart, but by no means a genius. He’s an everyday man that you could run into anywhere. If there is a theme lying beneath, it is that how we treat others; classmates, family, and strangers, has consequences. There is a cause and effect, and the archetypes that inhabit this world are made, not born.Just a note, Cadillac Jacks, site of the first murder, is the creepy dinner from Megan is Missing. I used to drive by it often on my way to work and I can’t tell you how eerie that place is.
Shiver is based on the novel by Brian Harper. As is always the case with book to film translations, a little is lost along the way. In a way, the film reminds me of what the studio wanted Seven to be, a taunt thriller that really was heading into dark places but succumbed to a Hollywood ending. It seems uneven at times and the end drags out a little long but the overall pacing is pretty good. I wish they had spent more time on how Rood operates, but with the level of cruelty in which he murders, I understand how that may have been a bad choice. In the end, Shiver is not gonna change cinema, but it’s a decent adaption of Harper’s novel and it will not only entertain you, but may give you something to think about as well.