Studio: Image Entertainment
Director: Julian Richards
Writer: Robert D. Weinbach, Brian Harper
Producer: Robert D. Weinbach
Stars: Danielle Harris, John Jarratt, Casper Van Dien, Rae Dawn Chong, Valerie Harper, Brad Harris
Having survived a serial killer’s attack, one woman is the key to stopping a predator who has become obsessed with his prey.
A crime drama with only a touch more splatter than most, “Shiver” is an average serial killer chiller that plays like a two-part episode of “Criminal Minds,” except with a largely forgettable unsub being chased by Casper Van Dien in place of Mandy Patinkin. The lone word “shiver” seems to make little sense as a title until the viewer realizes that it aptly describes the full extent of thrills the movie has to offer.
John Jarratt plays a psychopathic predator who is plainly vanilla by modern movie standards. Jarratt’s unhinged killer falls from the classic mold of an adversarial antagonist who taunts his police pursuers by name with personalized messages, a trait that primarily exists only in cinema. Christening himself with the motif and exotic moniker of “The Gryphon,” Jarratt’s killer missed the memo about infusing his personality with flair beyond petty misogyny and an abusive childhood. With peers like Buffalo Bill, Francis Dolarhyde, and Dirty Harry’s Scorpio, The Gryphon is quite tame by comparison.
In neither her best performance nor her strongest role, genre fan favorite Danielle Harris is charged with wearing a persistently dour frown on her face for 90 minutes as the script rarely asks her to emote anything other than disappointment, apathetic frustration, or resigned hopelessness. Harris becomes the first victim to escape The Gryphon’s clutching talons, and that failed murder fuels his twisted desire to make the girl his paramour, provided he can outwit the police protection surrounding her since the attack.
Jarrat and Harris only top the list of actors saddled with underwritten roles in the lukewarm story. Other performers uncover further misfortune by playing parts that are wholly unnecessary altogether.
TV icon Valerie Harper literally phones in her performance in two easily replaceable scenes as Harris’ mother. Alone in a room for both scenes, Harper cradles a handset and funnels dialogue into the receiver that could be presumed snipped out of a completely different movie were it not for her use of Harris’ character’s name. Brad Harris features in a one-off scene as the police captain nearing retirement. The inclusion of an insert shot depicting him with his grandson appears out of place until one learns that Mr. Harris is also the film’s executive producer. Suddenly, the vanity moment makes sense. And Rae Dawn Chong is all but discarded as a second police detective in a role so purposeless that having any other profession would have barely changed her character.
An already bumpy ride becomes more so when the wheels come off the wagon in the movie’s latter half. “Shiver” splices in lackluster moments that include a heatless relationship between Danielle Harris and her onscreen beau, an insultingly contrived eleventh hour romance, a silly second ending dream sequence, and an unfortunate misuse of digital blood spray and pump action shotgun sound effects. Any air remaining in the tension balloon is completely deflated during a third act sequence that removes all menace from Jarratt’s killer by having him feed Danielle Harris a sandwich while doing his childlike impression of a choo-choo train.
Like any of the interchangeable police procedurals that run in marathon blocks on cable television, “Shiver” makes for suitable enough background noise while checking email or waiting for dinner to bake in the oven. But as captivating suspense, “Shiver” does not maintain enough entertainment value to command a viewer’s full attention for its entire duration as anything other than a disposable distraction.
Review Score: 45