Shiver of the Vampires, The
Cast - Sandra Julien, Marie-Pierre Tricot
Country of Origin - France
Director - Jean Rollin
MSRP - $24.95
Distributor - Kino
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Film (4/5)
A little over a year ago the world lost one of it's great unsung cinematic visionaries, and one of the true pioneers of French fantastic horror the now legendary Jean Rollin. During his career Rollin's work was primarily known by a devoted group of European horror aficionados, and kept alive by the work of fans who kept his work in the public eye. His films were far from horrors mainstream, for while they contained the sex, violence, and undead creatures horror fans crave they were more about the atmosphere then the scares. This created as many fans of his films, as it did detractors as Rollin was truly a cinematic auteur with a true personal cinematic vision.
I had known about Rollin's work almost as long as I have been a fan of European horror films (15 or so years). After my eyes were opened by the films of Fulci, Argento, and Bava I began to notice the variety of horror films being released on DVD at the time, and horror magazines were carrying ads for Image/Redemption's line of Rollin DVD's such as Living Dead Girl and Shiver of the Vampires. Sadly, I was in college and on a limited budget, so it would be a good many years before I would catch up with his work.
One day while perusing Seattle's wonderful Scarecrow Video with my wife, I found myself in their director's section right in front of his entire released to home video filmography, and finally succumbed to temptation, and did a quick explosive marathon burst through a few of his more notable films. Shiver of the Vampires was not one of those initial films, and this is actually my first viewing of this film, but it is truly a mind bending, mindblower in a filmography that is obviously full of them.
Shiver of the Vampires tells the story of Isa (Sandra Julien) and Antoine (Jean-Marie Durand) a honeymooning couple driving to their vacation destination, who decide to drop in on the cousins of the bride whom she has not seen since childhood. Upon arrival their servants inform the couple that her cousins had died the day before, regardless they decide to stay in the cousin's castle for the night giving Isa time to greive before moving on.
During the night a lesbian hippie vampire (!!!) emerges from the grandfather clock in Isa's room, and begins to hypnotize and seduce her. She ends up in a nearby cemetery partaking in some weird vampiric ritual with the cousin's servants, and the hippie vampiress. Who begin to change her into a vampire. Soon after this Isa's cousins emerge, it turns out they are not dead, but undead. They are former vampire hunters, and the lesbian hippie vampire (!!!) is some sort of vampire witch-queen thing, that is passing her vampire influence on to them, and now on to Isa. It is up to Antoine to stop the vampires and regain the heart of his bride before she becomes a vampire.
The thing about the cinema of Jean Rollin is that even though there is a story there if you're looking for one. The film is less about the story and more about the imagery and atmosphere. Shiver of the Vampires contains both in spades. Rollin is known for his dreamlike atmosphere, and that is present from the first few minutes of the film, an odd surrealist quality that is hammered home with scenes of the main vampiress emerging from places as far reaching as as a grandfather clock and a chimney.
The acting is very interesting, and the more Rollin films I watch the more I see the acting parallels with another director of the bizarre David Lynch. Lynch's films have been known for their strange performances with director's using a sort of stilted dialogue to convey there lines, and while the actors and actresses of Shiver of the Vampires do not do exactly that, they have a certain off quality to their performances that makes the comparison quite apt.
Rollin chooses to accompany the film with a score that is more akin to the psychedelic rock music of the late 60's/early 70's era which immediately sets the score apart from traditional vampire fare. Aside from it's unique guitar based nature, it is really a ripping good score that really helps set the free flowing dreamlike tone Rollin was trying to achieve with the film.
Shivers of the Vampires is a first time watch for me, and being familiar with Rollin at this point I sort of knew what to expect going in. That being said it is truly a fantastic film, with loads for the discerning horror find to really dig into. If you've never seen a Rollin film, this would be placed right behind Iron Rose in my where to begin list.
Kino/Redemption have gone back to Rollin's original 35mm negatives for their Rollin restoration series, and it truly shows. And while there is still some pretty decent print damage throughout the film, I can honestly say that this is a gorgeous restoration. There is a good healthy bit of film grain throughout, giving a real film-like presentation to Shivers... aside from that the black levels are deep and inky, colors pop, flesh tones are largely accurate, and the level of fine detail is excellent.
Kino/Redemption have presented Shivers of the Vampires with 2 audio options the original French soundtrack with Optional English Subtitles ,and an English Dubbed Version. For the purpose of my review, I watched the French version, but did dip back in later to watch the English dub. Both tracks are excellent, dialogue is mixed well and is completely audible throughout. The score and effects are mixed, and the score itself really comes through loud and clear. Truly fantastic.
Kino/Redemption have put together a nice little slate of extras for their Rollin releases. These all include The Cinema of Jean Rollin booklet by Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas. We then have a 39 minute interview with Jean Rollin, and an introduction by Rollin to the film, and trailers for the 4 other recent Rollin Blu-ray releases.
Shiver of the Vampires is an excellent piece of French Fantastic atmospheric horror goodness from director Jean Rollin. The restoration work done here is absolutely incredible, and while the extras are a little on the slim side (and may have been ported over) they are nonetheless very interesting. Highly Recommended for the EuroCult enthusiast out there.