Santi (Juilo Valverde) is a teenager with a quite serious aversion to sunlight – it literally burns his skin on contact – and along with a discreet pair of fangs, it’s no surprise he’s the school outcast.
In an opening dream-sequence we see him running unprotected for cover on a scorching city street, his skin finally bursting into flames.
He and his single-parent mother Julia (Mar Sodupe) are forced by his condition to leave his not-much-loved life in the city and settle in a remote village in the shade of the mountains. But something nasty is living in the woods here, and making midnight snacks of the local cattle; immediately on arrival Santi finds himself witness to a brutal attack on a local boy.
All this seems connected with their arrival in the village and the past inhabitants of their new house, and Santi finds himself singled out by the suspicious locals while he is himself stalked by the real beast. As a sinister old man tells his mother, “This is not a good place to be alone”. But who ever listens to those creepy old guys?
Billed as coming from a producer of The Orphanage, this similarly-themed Spanish horror is aiming for the same commercial mystery-chiller market, though with more of a teenage, possibly Twilight-friendly audience.
Shiver is visually impressive and well handled by its cast, with Valverde (The Devil’s Backbone) very capable as the vulnerable, aloof hero. But early scenes seem to rush through with perfunctory character introductions, the result being that the film initially holds no great sense of threat, and never fully exploits the abilities of the cast.
The tension and intrigue start to pick up when a lost football is playfully returned to Santi by the otherwise blood-slurping creature, and later scenes where he confronts his new friend, although perhaps familiar to horror fans, still have a creepy power.
But this is a story which packs in too many genre elements without integrating them fully, and ultimately relies on characters running back into the woods to provide further peril, apparently never having listened to the warnings of sinister old men.
The nuts and bolts of the mystery are also often glaringly obvious: the complete back-story has been filed conveniently in a trunk in the loft, and otherwise the locals nuns have long known about this mess and are happy to chip in with a bit of exposition.
Shiver is a well-produced film, and diverting enough entertainment, but it’s doubtful whether it will reach the right kind of audience among more committed horror fans. Most of all it’s strange and quite disappointing that the most intriguing element – Santi’s clinical aversion to sunlight – turns out to be a red-herring only dramatically exploited in a couple of scenes, when it could have been a central and visceral element of the film’s suspense.