You’d be forgiven for thinking that Guillermo del Toro is the only purveyor of horror working in the whole of Spain, given the amount of coverage his name gets since his Oscar wins for the overrated Pan’s Labrynth. Obviously he isn’t, but the golden touch of his name is applied liberally over most horror films coming from Spain, and this is no exception.
Shiver, directed by Isidrio Ortiz, is about a high school student named Santi with a serious case of photosensitivity. His illness means that he must wear a hood and dark sunglasses whenever he ventures outside. Unfortunately, he also has extra sharp canines so his fellow students bully him remorselessly for being a vampire. This necessitates a change of school and change of scenery, so Santi and his mother move to a small foggy town that only seems to get sunlight when the plot requires.
Santi’s illness only serves to give our hero a sense of tension that surrounds him at all times – will the sun burn him? Will he set on fire or something? The film opens with a disturbing dream that Santi has about the sun setting him on fire and this stays in the mind of the audience, subconsciously adding to the horror of the film, which otherwise wouldn’t really be that scary.
That’s not to say that there are no shocks to be found, however. The main antagonist is genuinely disturbing and is, thankfully, not shown on-screen too often. The effect would be ruined by dwelling on its appearance for too long and its snatched glimpses more than make up for the shoddy concept. There’s much that doesn’t work about the film, and some wooden performances – Santi’s father in particular – but overall the film is a mistily atmospheric thriller/chiller set in a part of Spain we rarely see in films.