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Shaky Shivers (2022) Review – Dark Bridges

Shaky Shivers, which made its Canadian debut at this year’s edition of Dark Bridges, was another of the presentations that had filmmakers in attendance. Director Sung Kang, best known for playing Han in the Fast and Furious franchise, and producer Brian Yang (Hawaii Five-0, The Man With the Iron Fists) hopped a flight from Vancouver where they were filming to talk about how the film came together.

Lucy (Brooke Markham, Deidra & Laney Rob a Train, Friend Request) and her best friend Karen (VyVy Nguyen, LAid, 51) work for Bob (Herschel Sparber, Osmosis Jones, Lucky Stiff) in his ice cream shop. They’ve already had to deal with a woman demanding free ice cream with a coupon that expired in 1987 when someone even stranger (Erin Daniels, Animal Among Us, House of 1,000 Corpses) walks in also demanding free food. The resulting confrontation ends with Lucy getting bitten by the stranger’s wolf puppet and a curse put on her.

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As the two girls wait in an abandoned summer camp to see if Lucy really does become a werewolf, their friend Eric (Jimmy Bellinger, 2 Lava 2 Lantula!, A Comedy of Horrors, Volume 1) picks the wrong time to try and scare them. He ends up getting what few brains he had blown out. Things only get worse from there.

Although billed as a horror comedy, the script by Andrew McAllister (My Sister Liv, Floored) and Aaron Strongoni (Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust, Madhouse) is horror only in the sense that it involves werewolves, zombies, etc. It’s never really scary and never tries to be. Instead, Shaky Shivers is a chain reaction of unintended consequences involving a binder full of spells from a DnD game, DIY blood transfusions, werewolves, zombies, Bigfoot and a murderous cult. It’s all just as bizarre and funny as it sounds as the girls try to lift the curse only to keep making matters worse. 

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I’ll admit the involvement of Aaron Strongoni did have me concerned, and if you’ve seen Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis or Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave, you’ll understand why. But the script for Shaky Shivers is actually quite strong and accomplishes a lot with a minimum of characters and locations.

A tribute to the films of the 80s despite being set in the 90s, Shaky Shivers had the good fortune to have Gabe Bartalos working on the film’s effects. A legendary effects and makeup technician, his career began in the 80s on the cult film Spookies and has progressed through Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Dark Angel and Saint Bernard among many others. 

His effects really make Shaky Shivers feel connected to the films that inspired it. The standout is a transformation scene that recalls An American Werewolf in London when Lucy does turn. That’s not to put down the zombie makeup or Bigfoot when he turns up. But with good werewolf transformation scenes being a rarity lately, this one serves as a prime example of what can be done on a budget. 

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The film’s other strong points are the performances by Nguyen and Markham. They are constantly on the screen, with the rest of the extremely small cast fading in and out of the proceedings around them. Kang gets likeable portrayals from both girls, which is quite important, as their characters are quirky enough that they could have come off as unsympathetic if they weren’t played right. The fact we continually root for them, especially Lucy, is a testament to the talent on display here.

Shaky Shivers is a fun, lightweight throwback to the 80s that should keep fans entertained and at least chuckling if not actually laughing. 

Cineverse, formerly Cinedigm, plans to release Shaky Shivers in theatres this fall, followed by an exclusive release on its horror streaming platform Screambox. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more details. And while you’re waiting, FilmTagger can suggest some similar films to tide you over.

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