Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Sung Kang’s Shaky Shivers

Considering how many slashers were set in the 1980s, both back then and in recent retro homages, some Millennials might wonder how anyone managed to live through the Awesome Decade. Yet, the 1980s and early 1990s felt so much safer and more rational than our current times. Technically, this horror mash-up takes place in 1993, but its roots appropriately go back to the Eighties. All kinds of monsters get in on the act in Fast & Furious thesp Sung Kang’s feature directorial debut, Shaky Shivers, which has a special nationwide Fathom Events screening this Thursday.

Obviously, things are bad, judging from the in media res opening. Lucy seems to think she is a werewolf and we will have reason to suspect she is correct. It all goes back to the previous day. First, an incredibly annoying customer tried to redeem a coupon from 1987 at kindly old Bob’s ice cream shop, where she works at with her best friend, Karen (you could have a name like Karen in the 1990s, without feeling any irrational shame). Then a sinister hippish Earth Mother cultist demands free ice cream out of a sense of entitlement. When Lucy refuses, something bites her.

Fast-forward back to the prologue—and she’s a werewolf, but that will be the least of their problems during the sunlight. Lucy had Karen drive her out to the local summer camp that was closed under mysterious circumstances, to put an end to her lycanthropy, but her friend was not prepared for the madness in store for her. Before night falls again, they must contend with zombies, big foot, and a black magic cult.

Shaky Shivers
often feels like a monster-themed Mad Libs that was accidentally adapted for the screen, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Kang definitely leans into the mayhem and embraces the messy joy of practical effects, but somehow, he manages to downplay and minimize actual physical violence.

Lucy’s shtick can sometimes be a bit much, but Brooke Markham still develops some amusing bantering chemistry with VyVy Nguyen, as Karen. However, they are regularly outshined by Herschel Sparber, the veteran character and voice actor, who is absolutely charming as good old Bob.

This is definitely the sort of film that is best enjoyed in a rowdy theater, so the extent to which it entertains when viewed in the privacy of one’s own home is actually quite impressive.
Fast fans probably wouldn’t expect Kang, a.k.a. Han Lue, to go in a retro-horror direction, but he clearly has an affinity for the material. Easily recommended for those who dig throw-back horror spoofs, Shaky Shivers screens nationwide via Fathom Events this Thursday (9/21), including the Regal E-Walk in New York.