Creature Film, Horror
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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.
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
Look forward to owning this
- 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.
- added 01/22/2009, 11:10 AM
I taped it off OnDemand. Great horror movie
especially for this day n age!!! 9/10
- added 05/01/2009, 01:20 AM
Gloriously creepy and entertaining... and
satisfying on most levels.
it has the unfortunate glaring earmark that many
mediocre Horror flicks have these days... an
almost shameful avoidance of backstory for the
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
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.
It isn't so damned hard if you make at least a
Again... not to
be overly negative... it's a GREAT horror flick
with a truly unique monster to boot.
scenes are truly memorable and grotesque in a way
that approaches horror movie
Just a bit more
meat on the bone would have been
One of my favorite
guilty pleasures this year so far... an easy
- 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.
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
- 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.
don't need to have a PHD to be curious... (and
they indeed DID have an aspiring doctor present
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...
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
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
- 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
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,
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.
- 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
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,
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
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
Am I making any sense here
A nice rebuttal, by the way,
I'm enjoying this discourse
- added 05/01/2009, 03:59 PM
Discussion aside, our rating of the film is
I'm just the tiniest bit
less impressed than you were with the film...
about 1.4 points worth;)
refer to your own review's second sentence as the
basis of my complaint:
movies refuse to give the origins of the creatures
Ginose... that is EXACTLY my point!
PS: GREAT Fifth Element review, by the way... I
couldn't agree with you more on that film!
- 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.
- 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
- 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
Have either of you seen
"Let the Right One In" yet?
truly worth the whatever effort takes to procure
the film, i assure you!
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!!!
- 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.
- 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
- 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",
- 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
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
I look forward to the
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
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.