With Shiver being released to DVD earlier this month, we had director Julian Richards take part in our latest Q&A feature. Continue reading to learn about his work with Danielle Harris and John Jarratt, filming this project in just 18 days, and much more:

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Can you tell our readers how you became involved with Shiver? What attracted you to the story and the project?

Kevin Howarth (who played the villain in two of my previous films THE LAST HORROR MOVIE and SUMMER SCARS) suggested to writer/producer Robert Weinbach that he approach me to direct SHIVER. I sent Robert screeners of my films and the following week he offered me the job.

When I read the script I though it was a real page turner and an opportunity for me to do indulge in my favorite cinematic ingredients; suspense, surprise and gross out . The central idea of a serial killer who falls in love with one of his victims is quite unique, as is a strong female lead in an otherwise misogynistic genre. Hitchcock used said the best way to bulld suspense is to torture your heroine, and whilst the victim (Danielle Harris) goes through hell as a result of the killers obsession with her, it becomes a rites of passage in which she evolves and discovers her true potential.

Another attraction was writer/producer Robert Weinbach whose previous films include Blind Mans Buff with Boris Karloff and The Freakmaker with Donald Pleasance. I saw both those films as a kid and had no idea that thirty years later I would be directing for him.

When you started on this project, was the script completed at this point? What contributions did you make to the story/characters?

The script was completed well before I joined the project, but although there were ingredients I liked, it did come with a number of significant challenges.

The novel was written in the early 90’s and adapted to screenplay several years later, so it felt dated. The adaptation was too close to the novel, so the dialogue was full of exposition. My contribution became an exercise in refinement and improvisation. How could we change the action and dialogue to make it feel more contemporary and less expository.

During auditions I would get the actors to improvise the dialogue and if anything sounded better than what was already on the page, I would include it in my shooting script. Of course, when the actors were finally cast, each of them went through the dialogue with a fine tooth comb, re-writing it and making it their own. It was important they had the freedom to do that.

This story was adapted from the novel by Brian Harper. Can you tell us how you approached adapting the material?

The material was adapted by Robert Weinbach, but it was my job to realize the words onto screen, so first I had to get a clear grasp of genre and tone. My references were Hitchcock suspense thrillers like Strangers On a Train and Frenzy, Italian giallo films like Dario Argento’s Opera and Tenebrae, the Coen Brothers Blood Simple, No Country For Old Men, David Fincher’s Se7en, Zodiac and of course Jonathan Demme’s Silence Of The Lambs.

Another problem I had with the adaptation was that the point of view of the story was shared between the victim, the killer and the cops. This meant that we couldn’t keep the killers identity a mystery and it also meant that time spent with the killer and the cops distracted attention away from our protagonist. During post production, I did try a version which maintained point of view with Danielle Harris, but this was too much of a leap from the original material for Robert Wienbach, so his final edit reverted back to the original structure of the screenplay.

You had a chance to work with scream queen Danielle Harris on this movie? Was she your first choice for the role and can you tell us about your experience with her on the set?

I auditioned several actresses for SHIVER but none of them felt right until I met Danielle Harris. I auditioned Danielle using Skype and after 30 minutes I realized we had found the perfect actress to play the role of Wendy. I like to cast as close to type as possible, and in Danielle I had found an actress capable of charting every aspect of the characters journey, from introvert secretary to a ruthless survivor, capable of taking on the killer alone, without any help from the cops.

During the shoot, Danielle was very focused and didn’t really require direction. She would often nail the performance in one take which helped enormously with the tight schedule.

I remember on one occasion the cinematographer and I were struggling to set up a shot. We just couldn’t get it to work and Danielle was patiently watching us. “Is there anything I can do help you” she asked. It’s the first time I’d been asked that by an actress and summed up her attitude throughout the shoot.

SHIVER was an incredibly demanding lead role for Danielle for which she has already won three Best Actress awards. She has made a name for herself as a scream queen, but is also very capable of crossing over into mainstream as well as independent films. I would love to work with her again and hope that the opportunity presents itself in the not too distant future.

Viewers are introduced to The Gryphon, played by John Jarratt. Why was he perfect for this role and can you tell us about working with him on set?

When Robert Weinbach hired me to direct SHIVER I discovered that John Jarratt had already been cast as the killer, Franklyn Rood. John made such an impact as the killer in WOLF CREEK and I was really excited to work with him but I was also uncertain about what his approach might be, because a) he’s an Australian playing an American and b) in reality he is very different from the character in the screenplay.

I first met John a week before we started shooting and noticed that he would dress up in character and go for long walks around Portland. By the time we started rehearsals, I was astonished how he had transformed himself. His face expression changed, his walk changed and he also mastered the American accent.

But in the screenplay, I felt his character had been overwritten. There was too much dialogue, not enough mystery and at times the tone was characiture. So throughout principal photography I did several takes with John, each take slightly more refined than the last. This gave me the latitude I needed in post production to get the right balance between what the screenplay offered and what the film needed.

Working with John was a real pleasure. He has a strong rigid idea about how he is going to play the part, but he’s also open to ideas. He’s a great asset to any production because he becomes part of the team, helps keep up moral and is determined to do the best job possible, regardless of the obstacles.

What was your biggest challenge when filming this movie and how did you overcome it?

Shooting a 96 page screenplay with multiple characters, locations and set pieces (including a car chase and a shoot out) in just 18 days was by far the biggest challenge. To overcome it I had to indentify and prioritize the scenes that were essential to tell the story whilst pushing all the superfluous scenes to the end of the schedule. If we ran out of time, we would still be able to tell our story without compromising the narrative.

It was a painful journey for writer/producer Robert Weinbach because his vision was constantly having to be refined, but it was absolutely necessary if SHIVER was going to be completed on schedule and budget.

Can you share with us your favorite memory during the filming of Shiver?

I have many good memories from SHIVER, but one of the most amusing was the scene in the prison bus. I spent four hours inside that bus shooting the scene where John Jarratt kills several prison guards before escaping to wreak havoc on Wendy’s office. When we broke for lunch I noticed the crew giving me strange looks and when I went to the bathroom I realized why; my face was splattered with blood.

Towards the end of the shoot, when we were running out of budget, that prison bus became one of our production vehicles and we used it to drive the crew to the wrap party. It felt like a scene from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s nest but with a gang of escaped convicts. I was surprised we did not get arrested.

What's next for you? Will you be directing a new horror project in the near future?

Two of my earlier films DARKLANDS and SILENT CRY have just been released on DVD in the US, so along with SHIVER I’ve been busy promoting my work. But I do have several projects in development, one of which, SUICIDE SOLUTION might go into production in 2014. It’s a very dark psychological horror about a daughter and her stepfather on a murder spree and its similar in tone to recent French horrors HAUTE TENSION and MARTYRS.


"Danielle Harris (Hatchet II & III) stars with Casper van Dien (Starship Troopers) and John Jarratt (Wolf Creek) in this savagely entertaining horror-thriller. The Gryphon is a serial killer with a flair for the dramatic – and a grisly trophy case of victims. But when he sets out to add shy, young secretary Wendy Alden (Harris) to his macabre collection, he gets more than he bargained for. Unfortunately, Wendy’s escape from his first assault only deepens the killer’s twisted obsession – and affection – for her. Always one step ahead of pursuing Detective Delgado (van Dien), the brilliant psychopath penetrates police lines at will, circling ever closer to the target of his deranged fantasies. Until, finally, the only thing standing between Wendy and the Gryphon’s unthinkable desires is her own desperate, indomitable will to survive."