“Shiver” doesn’t play like a “whodunit?” kind of film. In the opening sequence, we are introduced to the killer, Franklin Rood (John Jarratt). He’s a socially awkward, misogynistic killer who seems to have an interest in killing all the pretty ladies of Portland, Ore.
Why does he do it? Well, we don’t really know. There is one moment where a flashback shows a young Franklin is being bullied by older kids, but they’re all men. It’s never shown if he’s had a bad relationship or if women constantly judge him for no reason. It’s just that one scene that we see, and that’s it. We automatically assume that this one instance is just an example of how terrible his childhood was and how the rest of his life has been so far – in terms of being accepted in the world.
Jarratt gives a creepy performance as Franklin – mixing Michael Myers from “Halloween” and George Harvey from “The Lovely Bones.” He’s not so much the creepy neighbor like Harvey, but he does have that kind of vibe oozing from him.
With all this about Jarratt’s performance, it’s disappointing to say that the rest of “Shiver” doesn’t even compare. The characters are heavily underdeveloped – including Jarratt’s. He is known to the authorities as “The Griffin” because he leaves a griffin sculpture at all of his murders. But we don’t know why; he just does it.
Wendy Alden (Danielle Harris) is a secretary with not much else going on in her life. She has a “non-date” with her friend, Jeffrey (Shan Applegate), and then comes home to see a griffin statue in her apartment. She and Franklin do have a brief confrontation, but she escapes from becoming his latest victim. Wendy must keep herself away from this creepy killer, while he goes through the rest of the city – decapitating every other pretty lady in his path.
Harris, who’s starting to become the “scream queen” of this generation, is quite good in her role, but the rest of “Shiver” is filled cliches left and right and random scenes that feel like they belong in a comic book. One lady gets her throat slash, and the animated silhouette blood shoots into the camera. The typography makes it seem like we’re going to watch – or we just watched – a film along the lines of “Sin City” or “The Spirit.”
Director Julian Richards does try to make “Shiver” a Hitchcockian-style film. One scene has the killer chasing after Wendy, but it’s so dark that there are times where you can’t quite see what’s going on.
“Shiver” is not just a damsel in distress story; the police are also investigating this case. But Detective Delgado (Casper Van Dien) is not the investigator you would want to call if a serial killer is chasing after you. Not only is Van Dien one of the least believable law enforcers in the world; he also follows all the things a cop should not do in a serial killer film. He makes it too easy for Franklin to escape, which then makes Wendy run again. One would think that, after so many serial killer films in which the killer dresses up to fool people, the cops in other films would know to pay more attention before sending someone to pick up the girl they’re trying to protect.
“Shiver” releases to DVD on Tuesday, Oct. 8.