The concept of the unknown against a small group of folks isolated in a small area had been numerous times, most notably in films like "Night of the Living Dead", "Alien" and "The Thing". "The Mist" followed this same formula with a much larger group of folks. It is a very basic and simple concept that relies more in execution--this premise will provide the feeling of claustrophobia, terror and helplessness. However, this concept if done incorrectly and poorly will end up in a laughable disastrous film, a film that wouldn't have anything to offer in horror save for its predictable elements. Director Toby Wilkins' horror film, "SPLINTER" is one such film that follows the same formulas and is set up as a horror film with hardly any originality in regards to premise.
What made "Splinter" succeed where most other horror films couldn't? Well, the film has great production designs, the film does offer some surprises and I have to say the film is nicely made. It does have some valid scares, and well, the creature designs are just interesting--they also look very nasty and frightening. It may provide solid entertainment for the horror fan.
Seth and Polly (Paulo Costanzo and Jill Wagner respectively) is a couple who decides to have a nice time camping in the great outdoors. Seth isn't too keen about sleeping in the woods and when their tent won't cooperate, he convinces Polly to stay in a motel in town. Along the way they are carjacked by another couple (Shea Whigham and Rachel Kerbs) thinking they had to stop to help another motorist. Lacey is the junkie girlfriend of an ex-con named Dennis and they are on the run, so they decide to take Seth and Polly hostage. Things take a turn for the worse when they run over a creature in the road, and it turns out this creature is infected by parasitic splinters. When their car overheats, the four take refuge in a gas station, with its attendant also killed/infected by the same parasite. Lacey becomes the nasty monster's victim, as the parasite re-animates her dead corpse. The three are stuck inside the gas station, and to make matters worse, Dennis may have been infected by a splinter…
As I've mentioned, the film follows a very basic premise and the set up is just so full of cliché. However, as soon director Toby Wilkins sets everything up rather quickly, the film does go into overdrive. It is highly entertaining and paced very well, the screenplay is kept in a manner that it generates a good deal of tension once the plot gets going. The film's "Splinter creature" is actually the film's main draw. The script does slowly flesh out its characteristics throughout its proceedings. Its weaknesses, its strengths and as to what it wants. The splinter parasite feeds on living cells, it takes what it needs and re-animates the dead organic remains after; making its new victim its new host. It also joins together the organic remains from its different victims that makes the creature looking very bloody, distorted and ugly--with movements that are definitely alien-like.
"Splinter" has a great deal of blood, gore and violence. While the creature itself remains out of camera view most of the time, the film does also succeed in the generating a very tense atmosphere. But when the creature is in camera view, watch out. The viewer is privy to our monster's attempts to penetrate the glass enclosure, its entrails hanging out, heads are sticking to the side, disemboweled body parts are animated--plus a severed hand gets to torture our trio. The film is pretty high on the gross-out meter, while maintaining a convincingly scary feel. The film has little if no use of CGI effects, utilizing old-school prosthetics, make up and a lot of red ink to create our monster and gore effects.
While the screenplay by Ian Shorr and Kai Barry may not be perfect; admittedly, the film does have its share of holes and plot missteps, some parts required a large suspension of disbelief; the film does have some rather sympathetic characters going for it. True, they started off pretty clichéd, but as the film's script goes on, the characters do have some depth. Polly and Seth is a very odd couple; a hot girl with a geeky guy, Polly proving herself more capable than Seth most of the time. Dennis is your stereotypical bad guy, but his character does offer some surprises and proves to be the convict with courage and compassion. The characters are also decently acted by its cast and they manage to achieve some growth and multi-dimensions throughout the film.
"Splinter" is a solid horror film that relies on its credible tension and splatter blood effects to keep things rolling. The film is also helped along with its cast, the trio of Wagner, Costanzo and Whigham do establish needed chemistry in a film like this. It takes its limited concept, maximizing the film's enclosed location to its optimum effect. The direction and the camerawork is quite good, as it gives the film a rather stylish and organic feel, as opposed to the inert aesthetic in other horror films. The editing is also worth mentioning, since the film is superbly edited. "Splinter" may not attain horror ‘classic' status, but may indeed gain a cult following. The film is intense, scary enough to keep horror fans entertained and I think it would be safe to say that it rightfully won best picture in the 6th Screamfest awards.
Recommended! [3 ½ + Stars]
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