By Jonathan Stryker

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Source: Jonathan Stryker (Facebook); Jonathan Stryker (Twitter)

Oct 13, 2013, 8:0 AM

The latest Danielle Harris film to hit DVD is SHIVER (2012), a creepy independent film shot on location in Portland, OR and in and around Los Angeles, CA, specifically at a faux Cadillac Jack's diner in Sunland, CA, which is actually a movie set with an adjacent Pink Motel set situated on 9457 San Fernando Road in Sun Valley, CA for use in films.  As the film opens, a schlubby middle-aged man named Franklin Rood, played off-kilter by Australian actor John Jarratt (he played the diabolical Mick Taylor in 2005's stomach-turning Wolf Creek and its forthcoming sequel), sits down nervously at the counter and feigns reading a menu. 

The waitress, Kathy (Nikita Sesco), is clearly half his age and he finds her impossibly desirable, fantasizing about frolicking with her and exploring her body.  When he asks her out to a movie, he is politely rebuffed and storms off like a child.  His adolescent-minded feelings are shattered, and he doles out a head bashing in the parking lot after she locks up the diner for the night, leaving her dead.  The murder itself is not graphic (for the most part it is off-screen), but the look on his face is truly disturbing.      

Twelve years later in Portland, Oregon, the city is on edge due to a serial killer (called The Gryphon) being on the loose. Wendy Alden (reliable scream queen Danielle Harris) is harassed by her mother (Valerie Harper) to ask her boss for a raise since she can no longer help support her daughter. 

Her friend Jeffrey (Shane Applegate) wants to be more than friends; when Jeffrey takes the Wendy out to dinner and offers that she stay with him that night, Wendy attempts to assure him that she will be fine.  If you're a genre fan, you will know right away that she is about to receive a visit by The Gryphon, aka Franklin, the loony from the pre-credits sequence.  When Franklin arrives in her home and surprises her, he reconsiders killing Wendy as she begins to behave in a way that he is not used.

She talks to him differently than the other young women he has killed up thus far and he notices this.  Franklin suffered bullying and humiliation during his childhood and this partially explains his killing streak towards women.  Through his own delusional mind, he convinces himself that he can make her love him.  In the meantime, the police are unable to adequately protect Wendy: two of the dumbest police officers I have ever seen in a movie are both killed by Franklin within seconds of each other, and I almost found myself applauding in his favor.  Casper Van Diem is the lead detective and Rae Dawn Chong portrays his partner, however the script does not give her much to do.  Wendy attempts unsuccessfully to escape Franklin's clutches even after he manages to extricate her from a police station under the guise of dressing as a fellow officer.    

The film is nowhere near as suspenseful as I would have liked, but the story kept me watching. The others films that I would compare this too would be recent horror outings such as CHOOSE (2010) and ATM (2012). SHIVER is a step above these films and keeps you focused until the final frame.  It does require a suspension of disbelief to succeed.  Mr. Jarratt has a unique ability to play unrepentant psychopaths, his turn as Mick Taylor in Greg McClean's aforementioned WOLF CREEK brought to life one of the most frightening and vicious psychos that the cinema has seen in quite some time.  Here he is also mean, but for different reasons.  In WOLF CREEK, he was bent on inflicting pain on others for his own pleasure.  Here, his Franklin is a broken, rejected and unhappy soul for reasons we don't know.  He is trying to trying to connect with someone and spirals out of control when he cannot.  Valerie Harper gives a good performance as Wendy's mother, although she only appears in two scenes.  Danielle Harris is also quite good and proves a great adversary for Franklin. 

The DVD itself is bare-bones and contains trailers for ABERRATION and THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH.  It would have been nice to have had some extras, such as interviews and a commentary with the cast; Ms. Harris is always so fun and bubbly when talking about her career and the onscreen action.  Worth seeing for fans of Mr. Jarratt and Ms. Harris. 



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