Monday, April 27, 2009


Film: Splinter (2008)
Dir: Toby Wilkins
Rating: *** out of 5 stars

I had high hopes for this one, but I must admit I was a bit disappointed. Perhaps that is my fault for buying into all the hype. Splinter's concept has a lot of promise but I found myself bored or rolling my eyes through some of it. At its best, the movie is reminiscent of The Thing and, to a lesser extent, Tremors. On the other hand, dull characters and hyperaggressive directing drag the film down.

Splinter starts off like many other horror films - with a young couple going camping in the woods. But in this case, the terror begins when Seth and Polly realize they suck at camping and go looking for a motel instead. On the way, they see a girl stranded in the road and slow down to consider helping her. Before they can change their minds, their car is hijacked by the girl and her gun-wielding boyfriend.

When the car runs over a spiny critter on the road, a flat tire and leaky radiator forces them to pull over at a small gas station. Shortly thereafter, they are attacked by an injured man covered in spiney quills. They soon realize they are up against some kind of spiny parasitic creature that infects human and animals hosts, feeding on their blood. Needless to say, Seth and Polly have to work with their kidnappers against this common threat trapping them in the gas station.

I always appreciate a new kind of monster movie and Splinter definitely brings some unique material to the genre. The idea of a parasite propogating by splintering off its quills is pretty damn cool. Then for some reason it breaks its hosts bones - I can't explain why, but it looks awesomely painful. And the final result is a very creepy, crippled zombie-like monster with spines all over. The final beast in the film's finale is very reminiscent of something out of John Carpenter's The Thing. Not too shabby, right?

Unfortunately, that monster is kinda wasted since Toby Wilkins' rapid cuts make it very difficult to see anything. This is my biggest pet peeve about the film - hyperkinetic shots and quick cuts during action scenes. It looks very cheap and makes the best stuff difficult to follow. Furthermore, some of the FX shots look terribly fake and, again, sped up. I wish the rest of the film's FX looked half as cool as the final monster or even the amputation scene (which btw, is brutal, if only for the tools chosen).

I also did not think the central characters were particularly interesting, nor was their relationship with their kidnapper Dennis believable. They are pretty one-dimensional characters (tough chick, puny worthless nerd, and criminal with a heart-of-gold...yawn).

I really hoped for better, but Splinter is not a bad first try (this is Wilkins' first feature - next up is Grudge 3, god help him). The concept is phenomenal, and I even got an old-school Tremors vibe from watching it. I hope the crew behind this one try their hands at another monster movie some day, they just might nail it.