Le Frisson des Vampires (English title: The Shiver of the Vampires) is a 1971 French erotic horror feature film directed by Jean Rollin.
Two newlyweds, Isle and Antoine, are on their honeymoon, on their way to visit Isle’s two cousins. Unfortunately, they discover that her cousins died the day before. Nonetheless, they go to the chateau where they lived anyway. They are greeted by two female Renfields who show them to a room.
Isle goes to the cemetery to visit the graves of her cousins, and a woman named Isabelle tells Isle that she was about to get married to both of her cousins, but in a way, she was already their brides. Isle decides to sleep alone on that night because she is upset. While getting ready for bed a woman emerges from the grandfather clock. She introduces herself as Isolde and takes Isle back to the cemetery where she bites Isle in the neck.
Antoine, feeling lonely, goes to see Isle, but finds that she isn’t in her room. He searches the castle and comes to the chapel where it seems a human sacrifice is taking place…
As with most of Rollin’s work, his sympathies lie with the alleged monsters as much as with the victims, and his story is a romanticised tale of vampirism, with our living heroes being drawn into the vampire cult out of love, not malice. And so it’s unsurprising that he goes for a dreamlike feel, with the remarkable visual tableau that makes his films so unique, rather than horror shocks. This film is also more openly erotic than its predecessors with plenty of nudity and an aura of sensuality pervades.
There is a downside – the film has rather too many lengthy dialogue scenes that somewhat lack pace, suggesting that Rollin was more at home creating his delirious visions of ecstasy rather than dealing with a straightforward narrative. Better to let the images do the talking – something he thankfully returned to in his next film, Requiem for a Vampire.
This minor criticism aside, The Shiver of the Vampires remains a remarkable and compulsive film, unlike anything (apart from other Rollin movies) that you’ll ever see.
David Flint, MOVIES and MANIA
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“Rollin’s visual aesthetic renders this supernatural fantasy/nightmare in bright, unreal colors — the castle itself is often shown in cutaway shots where it’s bathed in rainbow hues as though there are unseen spotlights shining up on it from the grounds — and shadowy, foggy haziness. The narrative is reduced to almost nothing…” Only the Cinema
“The set design alone is brilliantly kooky — see the wacko, wax-covered fishbowl with a skull in it — and Rollin goes wild with his cinematographer Jean-Jacques Renon, casting many scenes in bold washes of color. It’s surreal and psychedelic, doubly so when you factor in the film’s minor-key prog rock score, which gives Shiver a lead over the Hammer films, at least in terms of pure hipness.” Blu-ray.com
‘Shiver of the Vampires is a movie that works more as a treat for the eyes and the soul, rather than the brain. There doesn’t appear to be a deeper meaning to any of it, and it might seem that things happen in the film for no reason. Everything feels like a strange dream and on that level it works really well.’ DVD Talk
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‘Shiver of the Vampires finds Rollin continuing to test thematic tools he’d revisit over and over (and over) again throughout his career. There are the ubiquitous female twins, the lesbian vampiress, the modern abandoned castle, numerous graveyard scenes, crazy lighting schemes, and numerous invented rituals. It all sounds very dark, but the film is really a blast.’ Twitch Fillm