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Splinter (2008)

DVD Cover (Magnet Releasing)
Genres:
Creature Film, Horror
Director:
Toby Wilkins Toby Wilkins
Starring:
Charles Baker Charles Baker
Jill Wagner Jill Wagner
Paulo Costanzo Paulo Costanzo
Shea Whigham Shea Whigham
Rachel Kerbs Rachel Kerbs

6.8 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: November 15, 2008
Talk about a shame. Here is one of the best horror films of the year and it gets tossed into a few theatres and On Demand at the same time, with the hopes of quick DVD release sometime thereafter. "The Midnight Meat Train" is the only horror film this year to get a worse treatment. "Splinter" is one of those films that should have been one of the surprise horror hits of the year -- had its distributor been brave enough to give it a chance, it would likely have been. What is it with horror distributors these days? When a film costs this little to make, it makes sense you would give it a national release because it's probably going to at least make its budget back and then some. But that isn't what these people think about. If they had, "Splinter" would have already been reviewed here.

The film stars Paulo Costanzo and Jill Wagner as Seth and Polly, a young couple on a camping trip in the middle of the wilderness. After wrestling with a malfunctioning tent, they decide to abandon their adventure and book it to a motel. On the way, they run into Dennis (Shea Whigham) and Lacey (Rachel Kerbs), two fugitives on the run from the law and headed across the border. Dennis and Lacey take the young couple hostage and pretty soon we learn that Lacey is a little sick, having been bitten by her dog. Their journey quickly takes them to an abandoned gas station in the middle of nowhere, where they become trapped. Trapped? But from what? The creature in "Splinter" is not really a creature at all -- more like a fungus. It's a black substance that sprouts sharp splinters and it infects its hosts and turns them into brainless, blood thirsty symbiotes. Think Venom, only meaner.

What works here is the creature. It's definitely one of the most original antagonists we've seen in a horror film and the effects are just fantastic. These creatures are so horrifying because they're merely parasites that take over the human bodies and use them like puppets. If you even touch this parasite, you're infected. Most of the film revolves around three of the four trapped inside the gas station, trying to deduce what they're up against and figure out how to get the hell out of the building. There is an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia to everything they do because they have such limited space in which to work. What helps is that all three of these characters are very intelligent and think things through before doing anything stupid. We don't have a dull one in the bunch and that makes us relate to them more because it's far more difficult to relate to an absolute moron.

What also works about "Splinter" are the performances. It reminded me of "The Signal" in that it's one of those rare low budget horror films with exceptional performances across the board. Shea Whigham is the standout as the 'man on the run', combining humor and emotion when the time calls. Paulo Costanzo and Jill Wagner make an unusual, but appropriate couple, with the woman having all the brawn in the relationship. It's always nice to see actors not compromise a performance because of the material. Some actors have a tendency to say, "Oh, it's just a horror film -- I don't have to bring it today". That is where you get Cary Elwes from the last few minutes of "Saw". If the material is treated with respect, the performances can really shine.

I just loved "Splinter". I love a creature that cannot be stopped and cannot be controlled, save maybe for a short period of time. This is not a creature you can out-run. I like that. "Splinter" takes a low budget and does wonders with it, providing convincing creature and digital effects with a fine production quality and some really nice plot construction. Director Toby Wilkins definitely has a future ahead of him as a solid horror director, if that is the route his career takes him. And I expect to see things from Shea Whigham in the future, as well. Look for "Splinter" to hit DVD very soon and then check it out for yourself. It's one of this years best. 9/10.
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grain of sand #1: grain of sand - added 11/17/2008, 01:01 AM
I really liked this one, it had that low budget charm and nothing was compromised because of it. The way the bodies contorted themselves was super creepy.

Look forward to owning this 9/10
waxtadpole3657 #2: waxtadpole3657 - added 11/24/2008, 10:32 PM
I was actually really excited to see that this was available to watch on Comcast On Demand because I had read a review and it sounded great. Needless to say, I loved it and completely agree with this review. Best creature feature I've seen in a VERY long time. They just don't make them like they used to.
Shakes #3: Shakes - added 01/22/2009, 11:10 AM
I taped it off OnDemand. Great horror movie especially for this day n age!!! 9/10
Greg Follender #4: Greg Follender - added 05/01/2009, 01:20 AM
Gloriously creepy and entertaining... and satisfying on most levels.

STILL... it has the unfortunate glaring earmark that many mediocre Horror flicks have these days... an almost shameful avoidance of backstory for the titular critter!

Sure... I'm all for that mysterious "slice of life" angle that sometimes seems to forgive lackluster storytelling for a heightened sense of mood and character building... but simply having a road-sign with something like "Experimental Oil Drilling" written on it fly past in one scene begs for further explanation.

We get to know what kind of critter it might be... but get absolutely no insight into how the fuck such a thing might exist in the first place!
I'd like to think that with all the petroleum digging these days, we might unearth a preserved, semi-fossilized extinct critter with ancient pathogens or viruses within it that are unleashed upon experimentation and wreak havoc on a populace that has evolved past our natural immunity for such a thing.

See?
It isn't so damned hard if you make at least a half-assed effort;)

Again... not to be overly negative... it's a GREAT horror flick with a truly unique monster to boot.
Some scenes are truly memorable and grotesque in a way that approaches horror movie "art"...

Just a bit more meat on the bone would have been appreciated...

One of my favorite guilty pleasures this year so far... an easy 8/10.


Ginose #5: Ginose - added 05/01/2009, 04:53 AM
Out of curiosity, Greg, what makes you care so much about the origin of the creature? Alot of movies refuse to give the origins of the creatures or characters, what exactally does that take away from the feel and condition of the movie? More so, what's so wrong with just assigning an origin to the monster yourself? Hell, you did it. It's an adequate one, as well. Hell, it's a terrfying thought, just knowing that you can't tell where the creature came from. For all we know it could just be some parasite that has mutated over the years and finally attatched to a living host. It all honesty, the thought that something like this could exist is a scare within itself.
Just an irking thought.

All in all, I would easily call this one of the best monster movies in the last decade or so, the claustrophobic feel and the overall creepiness of the monster within is more than enough to make my palms sweat in paranoia. This was one of the most tense horror films that I have ever seen, with fantastic performances and one of the best monster designs I've seen.

The few grips I have are with some of the, rather forced, character development. Especially towards the end, when the convict starts to reveil his story... it almost felt tacked-on, as arbitrary as it was to his character. However, the few problems I had didn't keep me from enjoying this one immensly.

9.4/10
Greg Follender #6: Greg Follender - added 05/01/2009, 11:17 AM
Ginose, it's not so much that the complete lack of backstory for the monster ruins the film (I gave it an 8 out of 10, after all)... it's just the fact that even the characters in the film gave no real thought or theory within the film for it as well... and I find that suspect.
You don't need to have a PHD to be curious... (and they indeed DID have an aspiring doctor present anyway).

Many recent movies of this genre take this "unknown origin" route these days to avoid any explanation time onscreen... and while i enjoy mystery and the unknown as much as the next guy, it's just becoming a bit of a staple in these small scaled "horror tableau" films that are the vogue these days.

Besides, a critter of this grotesque magnitude (it isn't small or unnoticeable by any means) would not be able to exist for ANY amount of time in the world under the radar, regardless of how far out in the sticks it was. These days, folks are quick to notify authorities and /or a Doctor if they get a sudden twitch i their arm that causes it to splinter it's own internal bone structure! Hell, the movie took place near a public camping ground where dozens of people must frequent with cell phones...
I just like to think that this is the first time that it has to spread past it's usual hunting grounds because of deforestation/ human encroachment (again, I must elucidate the reasons myself...).

It's OK without any explanation, Ginose... it just would have been more intriguing and engrossing WITH one.
Plus, it would have been a welcome change from the usual "sudden phenomenon" scenario that plagues these sorts of movies lately.

Oh... and yeah, I thought the last minute revision of the convict's backstory was lame as well... but I still dug the story well enough to forgive such a transgression. Hence, my 8/10 score.


Ginose #7: Ginose - added 05/01/2009, 11:33 AM
I dunno, man. I haven't really noticecd it a trend (unless you're counting zombie films, but come on) and I'm just not sure it WOULD have been any more interesting with the origins reveiled. Hell, PhD-boy was trying to figure it out the whole time, all he knew was it was a parasite that used dead tissue. Hell, when you're trapped by someting like that I'm sure the "Hey, where do you think this thing originated?" question is pretty far out of the way when the more pressing ones such as "What is it?", "How is it finding us?" and "What is it doing to the bodies?" are far more obvious and, indeed, would be more helpful to the situation (thus the question the guy was constantly asking himself while his girlfriend was fundamentaly telling him to stop dicking about).

Hell, as far as we know that was the only case OF the outbreak in those woods. I dobut it had spread very far at all, so, as far as we know, they were the first ones to encounter it (with the exception of the clerk, ofcourse).

I'm not saying it isn't plausiable, but, in that situation, I know for a fact I wouldn't care where it came from... just how to get away from it and/or kill it. Dunno, like I said, maybe it's just in how the director wanted to assess the situation.
I mean, come on, they were willing to set the forest on fire while locked in a gas-station. I think survival was a bit more important to them than curiosity.
Greg Follender #8: Greg Follender - added 05/01/2009, 01:32 PM
I think that you are missing my point, sir...

Sure, it would have been nice to have one of the characters remember the sign they passed on the way into the campsite and postulate a bit about how something like this would go unnoticed for so long, etc... but my problem is with the Director deciding to include no relevant backstory at all.

All I ask is a few reference shots... maybe have the first victim be a lab technician/scientist/environmental tester instead of the usual hillbilly startup that is so common with these sorts of films (Cabin Fever, Feast, etc.).

You misunderstand me if you think I'm saying it ruins the picture... all I'm saying is that it would have made it a lot more interesting to me.
As it stands, it has absolutely nothing original going for it in the way of start-up... in fact, it begins in such a painfully cliched manner that might turn off a viewer before he even gets to the good parts! A little more intrigue might have even made the later poor character development seem less irritating...

I dunno... if you take out the awesome monster... this film has ZERO originality as far as I'm concerned. All I'm saying is that a bit of backstory goes a long way in this sort of fare. Have you ever seen "The Host"? With a tiny snippet of prologue, that film explains all you might need in the way of explanations while still leaving the main origin of the critter up for interpretation (it even throws in some political intrigue to boot). It just takes a little foresight to make a film like this stand out a little...

As it is, it completely doesn't surprise me that this flick went almost straight to video and went unnoticed as a viable cinema feature. Don't get me wrong, I loved it... but it is just not anything special other than the critter it features.

Am I making any sense here to you?

A nice rebuttal, by the way, sir...
I'm enjoying this discourse immensely;)

Greg Follender #9: Greg Follender - added 05/01/2009, 03:59 PM
Discussion aside, our rating of the film is almost identical.
I'm just the tiniest bit less impressed than you were with the film... about 1.4 points worth;)

I'll just refer to your own review's second sentence as the basis of my complaint:

"Alot of movies refuse to give the origins of the creatures or characters"...

Yes, Ginose... that is EXACTLY my point!

PS: GREAT Fifth Element review, by the way... I couldn't agree with you more on that film!
Crispy #10: Crispy - added 05/01/2009, 06:27 PM
After that discussion I had to hunt it down myself. Maybe I just ended up overhyping it for myself, but I don't think I'd rank this as high as the rest of you. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, and the concept is nothing short of ingenious, but there were just a few too many glaring inconsistencies that bugged me. Plus, they had to use that shaky camera gimmick that makes things impossible to make out. For what it's worth, I kind of agree with Greg; I wanted to know where the hell the shit came from.
Tristan #11: Tristan - added 05/01/2009, 06:31 PM
Pretty large discussion for a movie that isn't overly popular. So I decided to finally give this one a shot, as its been sitting on my hard drive for some time. The added buzz certainly helped as well. I think a 9/10 is very appropriate. Once in awhile these DTV releases are better than you think they're going to be, and this was a perfect example. Among the better horror movies released this year.
Greg Follender #12: Greg Follender - added 05/01/2009, 06:42 PM
Thanks for weighing in 385 and Fecal!
Yeah... this one was way better than I expected... let's hope that the rest of the year holds other such hidden gems for us awash within the great swelling sea of Horror film refuse...

Have either of you seen "Let the Right One In" yet?
It's truly worth the whatever effort takes to procure the film, i assure you!

I'm curious to hear what the both of you thought about it... and then afterwards, we can discuss what was in the book that they left out of the film!!!

Crispy #13: Crispy - added 05/01/2009, 07:32 PM
I'll watch it, but I don't have time to read right now. I still haven't gotten around to reading the Dexter series.
Greg Follender #14: Greg Follender - added 05/01/2009, 08:29 PM
Be sure to watch it... but just for the sake of fun, see if you can locate the book... it's a super-easy read... probably the best toilet copy around! I just want to yap with someone about it...


Ginose #15: Ginose - added 05/01/2009, 08:33 PM
Perhaps you're right, Greg, but there isn't alot you can introduce in premise or character in films like these. All in all, I think I get where you're coming from, I'm just not sure how much more interesting a origin would have been. I mean, I wasn't implying that it was a trend in MODERN horror films, alot of the best movies in the genre refuse to give origins to the beasts... you're just left to assume it's been there for awhile, and I feel that that worked fine here; definately didn't take anything away from my pleasure. I certainly don't think it would have added much to how the movie played out, or anything else for that matter. I don't know, just seemed like an odd thing to be irked by.

All in all, I agree, we seem to be seeing eye-to-eye on the overall quality of the product. It was a great movie, overall, and one of the best monster films in awhile. Even if it didn't bring anything too new to the genre, it gave us that monster, and that was enough to squeeze 6 points from my overall rating-average, with all it did.

Fuck... I should probablly review "Dexter" and "Burn Notice", soon.
Greg Follender #16: Greg Follender - added 05/02/2009, 12:14 AM
I guess my only beef is that these sort of movies end up feeling a bit interchangeable without any real critter explanation... just once, I'd like for someone to make the effort and not take the easy shortcut.

Still... the movie stands head and shoulders over most it's peers as we both agree. Maybe I'm just being too picky... but thanks for humoring me in this discussion anyway;)

I look forward to the "Dexter" reviews...
The Red Clover #17: The Red Clover - added 05/04/2009, 12:56 AM
I think Greg and Ginose are both right to a certain degree. I think wanting to know the origin of something might be more on the subjective side. While Ginose loved it and didn't mind the movie had went without explaining a few things it got under Greg's skin. I think it's just the type of movie viewer you are when it comes down to it. Like for instance I can agree with both sides here.

I do find it a tad annoying that the origins are being neglected but this can leave room for debate (as seen done beautifully by the both of you which gave this movie a few more fans then it had before the conversation took place) and can also lead to imaginative discussions back and forth with friends. Come up with your own origins. Gives you something to think about. Not to mention that if done correctly leaves room for a prequel/sequel. So while it's annoying, I can also see why they would forgo exploring that route. At least for now anyway.

By the way a thanks is in order. I, like many others saw this conversation and couldn't help myself so I found it and watched it. I agree with the review one hundred percent and the score as well.
Chad #18: Chad - added 05/10/2009, 11:54 AM
Throwing down a "me too" comment is always fun, so yeah, I'm going to agree with the majority of the above comments. Great movie, and why this didn't get a theatrical run is beyond me. 9... hell, 10/10.
crucibelle #19: crucibelle - added 05/10/2009, 12:31 PM
I liked the movie and gave it 9/10. I kind of agree with Greg, in that more explanation would have been nice. That said, I think the PhD sort of 'hinted' as to what it might be when he compared it to mold. So I figured it was just a mutation of something mold-like. I dunno. I have a question though: bluemeanie mentions that Lacey was sick because she was bitten by her dog. I must have missed that part. I thought she was sick because she was in withdrawal? Can someone clarify that? One more thing -- I didn't really like the way the film ended.
Crispy #20: Crispy - added 05/10/2009, 12:36 PM
She was sick due to withdrawals. Also because of withdrawals she thought the infected fox they ran over was her dog, which smacked her with its tail, given her the infection; which I think is what he was referring to.
Lucid Dreams #21: Lucid Dreams - added 08/30/2009, 02:31 AM
Bluemeanie did a good review on this one and I agree with 9/10 on it.

As for the whole background story, it would have made it a little more interesting, but that would be about it. Weren't they all lucky that the boyfriend was studying in biology.
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