In “Shiver,” Danielle Harris plays Wendy Alden, a Portland-based secretary who is being stalked by a savage, misogynistic killer known as “The Gryphon” (John Jarratt). This killer leaves a gryphon statue with every one of his victims. Wendy encounters him but is able to escape his grasp. However, the killer is still after her, and he won’t stop until he gets her. The film also stars Casper Van Dien (“Starship Troopers”) as Lieutenant Delgado.
Check out the interview below.
David Wangberg: I haven’t read the novel, but the film felt like it was going for a comic book feel with some of the typography and at least one of the throat-slashing scenes showing a silhouette of blood shooting toward the screen. It also had some Hitchcockian-style scenes, especially the very dark car chase. Was that what you were trying to do when directing the movie?
Julian Richards: Hitchcock was definitely a key influence on my approach to directing “Shiver,” because it was an exercise in building suspense. “Shiver” is more a police, crime thriller than a straight horror film, and I certainly adopted Hitchcock’s motto, “Torture your heroine,” when working with Danielle Harris.
But there is also a giallo ingredient to “Shiver” reminiscent of Dario Argento’s early films, “Opera” and “Tenebrae.”
I know what you mean about the artifice of the CGI throat cut and “Day for Night” car chase, however these effects were added to the film after I had delivered my directors cut, so I can’t really comment on what was intended.
DW: I saw that, in the novel’s description, Delgado is an LAPD officer. Here, the film takes place in Portland. What prompted you to move the film to this area, rather than have it in L.A.?
JR: Locations are often dictated by finance – which state or country offers the best tax incentive. Originally, “Shiver” was going to be produced in Iowa, but when they pulled the tax credit in that state the film’s finance collapsed, so we moved the production moved to Regina, Saskatchewan in Canada, where I spent five weeks in pre-production before, once again, the finance collapsed. Finally, we moved to Portland Ore., which is not only a tax free state but also offers a 20% incentive.
For “Shiver,” we needed a generic U.S. city with a rural surround and Portland offered us some unique and interesting locations, such as the Fremont Bridge which looks like a giant octopus and Sauvie Island, which gave us the rural hideaway where Rood holds Wendy captive. Also, it rains a lot in Portland, which added a cold, gritty “Se7en”-esque feel without the production having to fork out for rain machines and wet downs.
DW: What kind of killer was John Jarratt trying to mirror? He seemed like a cross between George Harvey from “The Lovely Bones” and Michael Myers from the “Halloween” films.
JR: The killer in “Shiver” does seem to be as indestructible as Michael Myers, but I think that is the only comparison you could make. Michael Myers was a vague shape with no dialogue, whereas Franklin Rood is much more human. He’s the nerd bullied at school; the weirdo rejected by girls; a loner whose journey into adult life has been one of transgression. In complete contrast to Michael Myers, Rood has a lot to say for himself; he is articulate, polite but emotionally confused and sexually frustrated. So, maybe a better comparison would be Mark Lewis from “Peeping Tom” or the real serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.
DW: Jarratt was great in his performance. Do you know how long it took for him to prepare for that level of creepiness? Did he have to stay in character on set in order to not lose the characteristics of his performance?
JR: Both John and Danielle were very focused during the shoot. They kept to themselves and purposely avoided getting to know each other. John had a very specific take on what he wanted to do with his performance in “Shiver,” and it was very different from what he had previously done in “Wolf Creek.” Not only did he have to do a convincing American accent, but he also had to become a character completely opposite to his nature. His face expression and his walk completely changed, he became Franklin Rood. I did have concerns before and during the shoot that the character might be over the top, so I always did several takes with John in order to bracket his performance. During the first take, John did whatever he wanted but, during subsequent takes, I would refine his performance until we had enough latitude in the edit to control its tone. It was a risk playing the character in such an over the top way, but I think it paid off as many viewers have commented on John’s creepy performance.
DW: How’d you like working with Casper Van Dien and Danielle Harris?
JR: It was a pleasure and an honor to work with the cast of “Shiver.” To wake up one morning and find myself on set with Danielle Harris, John Jarratt, Casper Van Dien and Rae Dawn Chong was like a surreal experience.
This was a very demanding leading role for Danielle and an opportunity to show she has the chops to carry a movie. She was incredibly focused and would often nail her performance in one take, which helped me enormously with a very tight schedule. Making this film must have been quite an ordeal for her, but I never heard her complain. She just got on with it and delivered a performance that has already won three Best Actress awards.
Casper Van Dien was full of energy and ideas – a positive influence on set and determined to get the best out of each day. During rehearsals, Casper mentioned he had an uncle that lived near Portland who was a sculptor and he suggested that we approach him to sculpt the Gryphon (the object the killer leaves with his victims as a calling card). The idea soon blossomed to a whole room full of mythological creatures, which added a creepy atmosphere to the killer’s lair. On another occasion, during the scene where Casper rescues Danielle from the killer’s rural hideaway, Casper had an idea which really takes the scene in an unexpected direction. I think Casper is underrated and his look is getting more interesting with age, so I hope we get to see much more of him on the silver screen in years to come.
Since working with Rae Dawn Chong, I have discovered that every guy of certain age had a crush on her during their teens, myself included. Like Casper, Rae Dawn has a lot of positive energy and ideas. Her part was a little passive in “Shiver,” but by the time we had finished our read through she had already brought the character to life improvising a scene where she helps Casper nail the killer.
DW: What’s your next project?
JR: Two of my previous films, “Darklands” and “Silent Cry,” have just been released on DVD in the U.S., so I’m hoping that “Shiver” will whet people’s appetite to go explore my previous films, which also include “The Last Horror Movie” and “Summer Scars.”
I have several projects in the pipeline, the most developed of which is “Suicide Solution” – a very dark, psychological horror about a stepfather and daughter on a murder spree. It’s possible that I might return to Portland to shoot this, but it all depends on the finance.
This concludes the interview, but the Chico Movie Examiner would like to thank Julian Richards for taking the time to answer questions about “Shiver.”