Splinter (2008)

Directed By: Toby Wilkins
Written By: Kai Berry
  Ian Shorr
Starring: Paulo Costanzo
  Jill Wagner
  Shea Wigham

Low budget often comes with the stipulation a film will lack quality, through either a lack of affordable talent, a willful despondency from producers seeking a tax-break or simply because no one wanted to fund it because the script is appalling. Occasionally a film comes along, however, that trashes that morbid expectance, and Splinter is one of these.

The plot is relatively simple – a pleasant American couple (Paulo Costanzo and Jill Wagner) on a camping trip are hijacked by a ruthless criminal and his drug-addict girlfriend and forced to drive to their safe house. One burst tyre and petrol station visit later and they’re hiding inside a minimart refrigerator contemplating removing someone’s arm with a pen-knife and a breezeblock.

Splinter’s horrific enemy is a parasitic creature that infects its host with spine-like protrusions that gradually consume the host, killing it and re-animating its corpse so it can move onto the next victim. Spread horribly easily and with increasing tenacity, it’s a brutal, terrifying concept that leads the protagonists to situations where even the hardiest horror fan would struggle to find an escape route from.

The characters are well-played out; the couple is genuinely loveable and the criminals are desperate but not pock-marked with cliché. You actually want them to survive. Shea Whigham is excellent as criminal Dennis Farell, whose long-burning infection by the parasite draws out a more endearing side to an initially desperate and cruel personality. Tapping into the occasional stereotype regarding bit-parts (disbelieving state police, dumb hick garage attendant) Splinter does fall short of being completely flaw-free, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. The writing team only have a few projects under their belts (mostly dramas and shorts), so to pull off something like this was an impressive feat.

The effects are pretty sharp too; re-animated body parts, severely twisted human bodies crawling along a forecourt and a thankful lack of CGI makes it all the more realistic.

Short (a solid 82 minutes), gripping and brutally bloody, this is a fantastic horror that packs a dark, forthright punch in the direction of low-budget skeptics. This is truly admirable work.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

2 Comments on “Splinter”

  1. Louise M says:

    I watched this last night, and I thought it was a brilliant movie. There were a few moments I was howling at the TV (You’ve just left a spiked, blood drinking, reanimated plague hand to wander around the shop?? For Christs sake, at least put a bucket over it) but apart from that I found it hard to find fault. The monsters were truly terrifying, the acting was great, the script and characters were well fleshed and convincing, and the threat was original and incredibly unsettling. I’m surprised this film isn’t more widely known – it had me gripped the whole way through.

  2. Jamie Carruthers says:

    I was concerned with the claims that Splinter was in any way similar to The Thing, and this was probably the reason I avoided it for so long. Turns out, it was an excellent (almost) single location monster scare flick. I dug it a whole bunch.

    Things did seem to grind down towards the end though, all that heady pace that had built up over the previous 50 minutes just crunched to a halt and was probably meant to up the tension although it just left me checking the timer.

    Toby Wilkins clearly has some great movies in him just itching to get out (Grudge 3 notwithstanding, I assume).

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