Shaky Shivers Emerges As Hysterical Love Letter To The ’80s [Screamfest]

Shaky Shivers still of Lucy (Brooke Markham) looking scared with Karen (VyVy Nguyen) cowering behind her.

Some films are staid, arthouse affairs or giant blockbusters, and others are so out-of-this-world wild that you enjoy them, and you kind of wish you were there on set to experience the fun. Shaky Shivers, directed by Sung Kang (remember Han from Fast and Furious? Yep) and written by Andrew McAllister and Aaron Strongoni, falls into the latter like a zombie falling out of a station wagon. Playing at Screamfest, the movie does not skimp on the dramatics. Shaky Shivers starts oddball and spirals further down in a boisterous, ridiculous, wonderful film held together by an unbreakable friendship. 

Set in the early ’90s in Washington state, friends Karen (VyVy Nguyen) and Lucy (Brooke Markham) take a trip into an abandoned camp area. The reason? They must wait until the full moon comes out to check if Lucy transforms into a werewolf. Shaky Shivers throws you into the thick of it. If the music did not tell you that this is a comedy, seeing Lucy hand Karen a gun and then, realizing the bullets need to be silver, dig out her silver nail polish to paint the shells tells you Shaky Shivers thinks outside the box. Of course, silver-nail-polish-painted shots do not help. 

Shaky Shivers Shows Size Does Not Matter

Shaky Shivers still of Lucy (Brooke Markham) looking scared with Karen (VyVy Nguyen) cowering behind her.
Shaky Shivers still of Lucy (Brooke Markham) and Karen (VyVy Nguyen). Screamfest.

Karen and Lucy’s friendship keeps you watching. From their attitudes to the language they use in conversation, they seem an unlikely pair. After the initial opening, we travel back to the day before. Karen and Lucy are coworkers at the Friendly Freeze, an ice cream shop with coworker Eric (Jimmy Bellinger) and boss Bob (Herschel Sparber). This rounds out the majority of the cast for Shaky Shivers. The other two additions are white woman Karen, dubbed Karen Too (Skyler Day), and Mama Nature (Erin Daniels), the person who curses Lucy to transform into a werewolf after Lucy denies her a free ice cream in exchange for a pretty pine cone. 

Comedic Characters Delivered By A Terrific Cast

Karen and Lucy are witty and complement each other. However, they did not learn to beware of who they insulted. White woman Karen Too is the first to try and get free ice that day with an expired coupon. Karen Too is what you expect, an entitled white woman; the same is true of Mama Nature.

Still, both the scenes are comical because Karen and Lucy get to flex their caustic wit, and it is a hoot to watch, even though white woman Karen Too falls into the “I fear for my safety” bit when Bob walks in. Shaky Shivers understands the audience needs someone’s coattails to ride on this hilarious journey, and they deliver with not one but two fantastic leads. 

VyVy Nguyen’s and Brooke Markham’s acting does not feel over the top, given the strange and random circumstances. I hope they star as leads more often as both can carry a film. Despite the foolishness, Shaky Shivers remains believable thanks to the acting, sets, and music.  You never step outside Shaky Shivers’ world and think, “this is too much.” Instead, you wonder how you would handle the situation as one creature after another wind up in Karen and Lucy’s radius. 

A Great Send-Up To ‘80s Camp

Shaky Shivers photo of director Sung Kang.
Shaky Shivers director Sung Kang. Screamfest

The humor remains top-notch. Shaky Shivers starts with werewolves and just increases the fun from there. The movie taps into the ‘80s horror. This is complete with various beasties brought to the screen with the ever-present comical music by Timo Chen. Sure, some of the practical effects are not the best, but memorable films of that decade did not always have top-tier effects. It was still fun to watch; the same is true of Shaky Shivers. The movie also pokes fun at the supernatural genre, the ease with which people find magical fixes, how zombies are slow but suddenly appear out of nowhere, etc. 

Sung Kang created a memorable, sidesplitting directorial feature. Shaky Shivers delivers wacky entertainment with a small, devoted cast of people and monsters. Scares may be nonexistent but this film is chock-full of comedy. The trip down ‘80s trip memory lane delivers the off-the-wall effects, nonsensical plots, but beguiling humor that is missing from many present-day films. ‘80s movies did not have superb special effects, but they had heart. That is what made, and continues to make, them fun. 

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