Sometimes you need to have a good time. It feels good to be in a theatre for the silly movies as much as the serious ones. Big horror comedies tend to do well at festivals and I was looking forward to checking Shaky Shivers out as part of The Overlook Film Festival.
Shaky Shivers would never be confused with a serious movie. Its premise is mostly ridiculous. Two friends, Lucy and Karen (played by Brooke Markham and VyVy Nguyen respectively) find their loser livers interrupted when a “gypsy” comes into their workplace (an perfectly charming ice cream shop) and curses Lucy with what appears to be a spell that turns her into a werewolf. The two head out to an abandoned camp ground to deal with the curse and hijinks ensue.
While the movie leans heavy on big goof ball comedy the writing sometimes gets in its own way by stepping on it’s jokes or by being unclear. In fact the comedic effectiveness leans very heavy on Brook Markham’s performance which holds up quite well even when given little to work with. She is hilarious and when reflected off of VyVy Nguyen’s mostly serious deadpan the two work well together. Rounding out the two is their friend and colleague at the ice cream shop, Eric (Jimmy Bellinger). Without spoiling too much we get precious little of an unadulterated Eric and the film suffers a bit as a result. Like Markham’s own performance Eric’s goofy staging could have creepy but ends up being the right side of charming. Bellinger’s performance is hilarious and the romantic relationship Eric may have with Lucy is some of the funnier and more delightful bits early in the film.
The absurdist elements of the plot include a trapper keeper that contains a host of very helpful spells, magic words that sound like gibberish or rap lyrics and a zombie/werewolf transfusion to name just a few. These choices coupled with the teenage buddy tone the film goes for reminded me quite a bit of the tragically under watched Kevin Smith classic? (hehe) Yoga Hosers. If anything Shaky Shivers suffers from trying to be too much. Is it an Evil Dead horror comedy? A typical coming of age buddy comedy? Or something like Yoga Hosers that could only be characterized as Bizarro. As a result the entire film feels a bit half-baked. Its tone a bit choppy and unclear. Many parts of the film are fine, quite good even, but when put together it feels like a movie that showcases lots of different things but those elements aren’t all in concert and the movie feels less effective when combined.
First time film maker Sung Kang (best known for his acting work in the Fast and Furious franchise) has some excellent ideas. The big practical effects are fun to watch and when the jokes land the movie has a jovial feel that put a smile on everyone’s face. The jokes don’t all land and there are some odd choices (namely a cameo at the end that I just did not get at all) but all of the elements of a fun film are present. Was it funny? Sure, in some places, especially when Brooke Markham was given space and freedom to shine. It feels like there might have been some of her takes that were more improvised that could have showcased her humor and frankly might have been funnier then the final cut provided. It’s short run time makes it a low risk, high reward proposition.
Shaky Shivers was a fun lark. Laughing at our two female protagonists sort out a world that suddenly contains werewolves, zombies, and other creepy crawlies is an afternoon well spent. This feels like the first draft of a movie we are stoked to see. As a result despite some reservations I cannot wait to see what comes next from everyone involved. Shaky Shivers currently does not have distribution but keep an eye out for it.
Tyler has been the editor in chief of Signal Horizon since its conception. He is also the Director of Monsters 101 at Truman State University a class that pairs horror movie criticism with survival skills to help middle and high school students learn critical thinking. When he is not watching, teaching or thinking about horror he is the Director of Debate and Forensics at a high school in Kansas City, Missouri.