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Chinese director SIU HUNG CHEUNG's (alias BILLY CHUNG) movie SHIVER is really a mixed bag of contemporary cinematic styles that, as some have described it, is a Hong Kong take on ALFRED HITCHCOCK films. I admit, since I'm not too familiar with Hitchcock's overall work and from the movie's ad art (exposed faces in body bags), I would have never guessed that. But after watching the film, I can certainly see how and why the comparisons could be made from it's witty camera direction, excellent musical buildup, and suspenseful story revelations. I actually think it's best to describe SHIVER as more of a thriller or a "Who Done It" murder-mystery than a straight horror film even though most people will probably talk about the supernatural aspects of it that's VERY reminiscent of such modern Asian "Ghosts & Spooks" movies like RINGU (aka THE RING), JUON, and THE EYE. Of course, some may even go the route of describing SHIVER as a serial killer movie since there are several stylized repeat murders. Others my entertain the notion that it's a love story with an action / horror movie covering. Or, simply put, it's just Hong Kong trying to do Hollywood again. I guess you'll have to come up with your own ideas about SHIVER then.
FRANCIS NG plays police detective Kwok who is completely caught up in his work and blindly ignores his wife, Sammi (played by the ever-so-pretty actress ATHENA CHU). Her love-starved pleas for his attention go unheard until she finally decides to divorce him. But while Kwok drives her to her new home after signing the papers and such, they're caught up in a bloody bank robbery. As expected, Kwok instinctively springs into action even though he's not currently on duty. However, during the ensuing gun fight, Sammi is shot in the head by one of the criminals and instead of dying, she falls into a deep coma.
She wakes up some time later and we meet Doctor Ko (actor NICK CHEUNG) who tells Kwok that his wife will eventually recover completely but may suffer a variety of side effects along the way. Sammi decides to go back home and hopes that Kwok will now spend more time with her which could surely patch up their faltering marriage. Unfortuantely, he's right smack in the middle of a major case and he can't take a leave of absence until it's solved. Thoroughly discouraged and desperately seeking her husband's attention, Sammi soon starts to have visions of murders brought about by her emotional breakdowns and previous nearly fatal head injury. These spectre-like visions all revolve around strange neck wounds and a girl (played by supra-sexy Canto popstar, TIFFANY LEE) who seems to have had her life wrongfully extinguished. Trying to explain all this to Kwok is a daunting task indeed since he just can't seem to believe her. But when she stumbles into one of the real life murder scenes that she's seen in her head, that's the final straw and Kwok seeks out Doctor Ko's help and advice.
Deciding that heavy medication is the best choice for Sammi's wellbeing, Kwok starts to spend more time at home and brings his paperwork there so that he can keep any eye out on his wife while he still works on his cases. But when one of the photos in his police files turns out to be the dead girl in Sammi's visions, she spots it, completely flips out, and goes over the edge of sanity. So it's back to the hospital for her and that's where things really start to fall into place and heat up in a niffty little twist ending that you may or may not figure out before the end.
So, as you can tell, there's nothing ground breaking here but what you don't get from my quick synopsis is how well SHIVER uses it's simplistic storyline to the best of it's potential. It goes from one film sub genre (supernatural ghosts and spirits) to another (a murder mystery) and it makes the transition smoothly and correctly without either disappointing the audience or tricking them into thinking they're about to see something else. And most importantly, I think kudos have to go to ATHENA CHU because she really shined in her role as the lonely housewife with horror visions. Also, don't worry, the gore-hungry horror hounds can stay happy because there were a couple juicy wet murders and autopsy scenes to be had. My personal favorite was the wrist slitting scene. It was just snazzy.
But wait, not everything's perfect with SHIVER. There were a few things about the movie that didn't strike my fancy. First, there's alittle unintentional comedy that usually stems from scenes with Kwok's partners in the police department. Secondly, there's a couple of blatantly token car chases or car accidents that I felt was kinda just stuck in there. And last, even though I'm a big fan of the actor myself, I felt FRANCIS NG didn't quite pull his weight with his particular spot as well as I would have liked him to. And not to even mention, he picked the most god awful gaudy shirts to wear as a plain clothes detective. But then again, I gotta admit, say what you will, he did play the unknowingly insensitive husband just perfectly.
My closing thoughts are that SHIVER successfully utililizes what little it's got to work with (actors, budget, etc) and even though you've seen alot of this before in other films, it's still a surprisingly very good Sunday afternoon movie (as I like to call 'em). In fact, I think it hits all it's marks soooo well, you could very easily substitute the Asian cast for big name Hollywood actors and it would probably garner huge praise. Or, to borrow a statement from a buddy, "Some of the time you go into an Asian movie expecting crap and when it turns out to be good, it's REALLY good and you're caught by surprise."