Magnolia Pictures // 2008 // 82 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 14th, 2009
Three people, an abandoned gas station and a spiny little bastard and BINGO! you've got the makings for a kick-ass little creature feature.
A 20-something couple goes out for a camping trip and along the way they run into a criminal fugitive and his deranged girlfriend. So we're talking hostage situation until they end up in an isolated gas station overrun by a murderous organism and now we're talking murderous organism situation.
Here's the deal: this thing, which takes the form of a splintery substance, infects human and animal hosts and forces the bodies to move around looking for other life forms to inhabit and eat. The survivors are going to have to find out the beast's weakness before they get their candy asses splintered to death.
This movie kind of rocks. In a world that is swimming with all manner of horror film, it takes a lot to get yourself differentiated from the crop, but director Toby Wilkins has succeeded in putting together a bad-ass, memorable monster movie. If you possess even the smallest inclination towards screaming and blood and unstoppable forces of nature and more screaming and blood, then I urge you in no uncertain terms to track down Splinter.
Pretty much everything works, and I don't say that often. The atmosphere, the characters, the effects and, most importantly, the monster, it all comes together exceedingly well. As you will see...now!
About 90 percent of the film takes place in or around the gas station and while it is no doubt challenging to keep a pace up with a one-local limitation, this setting -- and the claustrophobic tension it generates -- is perfectly suited to the menace that Wilkins is going for. Besides, you know when you're dealing with a gas station, something is going to get blown up.
I had my doubts at first. The husband at first struck me as a whiny beta male, consistently emasculated by anyone around him and the hostage-taker appeared to be the standard-issue dickhead. A big part of the fun of Splinter are the two arcs these characters end up taking through the film and how they dramatically change. Shea Whigham, as the criminal, does some awesome work here.
Top-shelf, all the way. While Wilkins uses some lightning-quick editing to keep any costuming or make-up flaws obscured, there is still much bloodshed to feast your eyes on. Gore highlights include a fully splintered gas station attendant, a hapless victim bisected alive and the creature itself, which we'll get to now.
Simply great. The idea of a parasitic organism isn't new to the horror world, but rarely have I seen such effective execution. The use of the "splinter" formation as the physical manifestation as the infection is a good choice: it's unsettling and evil-looking. The twist is, the infected creature continues adding to itself, so the bastard our heroes end up squaring off against is a grotesque combination of several human bodies and maybe a muskrat or something.
The DVD is robust, featuring an excellent 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and an aggressive 5.1 Dolby Digital surround mix. Lots of extras, too: two commentaries with Wilkins and the cast and crew, featurettes on the effects, the creature, set design, the locale, shooting digitally and the pyrotechnics, an HDNet behind-the-scenes documentary and a concept art gallery.
Splinter is hugely entertaining, blood-soaked, and contains an amputation by utility knife. Beat that.
Not guilty, though the bench was a tad disappointed this wasn't the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles spin-off we were hoping for.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Art Gallery