I just watched Splinter (2008), which I bought sight-unseen - something I rarely do (last spontaneous purchase was Sideways, so it's been awhile) - and I was, for lack of a better word, enthralled with it.
I'd been reading about it and hearing about it for months, and it was nearly all great reviews, so I was psyched to see it.
What a different concept. I can see why it won a bunch of indie horror awards. This is good stuff.
The 'monster' in this flick is unlike any I've ever seen in horror, and folks, that in and of itself is refreshing. The closest I can compare it to is 'The Thing". But I have to disagree with some who say it is too much like The Thing. I can't say that's true. Besides, the remake of The Thing was made in 1982...
Splinter's general concept is not entirely unique though.
We've got an unlucky group of people stuck in a building in what seems like a hopeless situation. I've seen that before many a time. Who hasn't? Such as the rather low budget It Waits, the
stellar first Feast movie, The Descent, Evil Dead and Evil Dead II, Alien, The Thing, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead....you see my point? And almost every horror movie puts its characters in perilous danger...
So after a frightening little teaser before the credits, Splinter starts out innocently enough. Seth and Polly (Paulo Costanzo and Jill Wagner) are off to the woods for a romantic camping trip - celebrating an anniversary of togetherness. When the tent they brought fails to be easily set up and then breaks, they opt to go find a motel. On their way, a girl (a drugged out, pale faced Rachel Kerbs playing 'Lacey') jumps out on the road... they stop and when they are looking back at her trying to decide what to do, her convict boyfriend Dennis (the excellent Shea Willingham) shows up at the driver's side window with a gun to car-jack them.
So it's a few miles later and the two hitchhikers are in the car with our couple. It's obvious Lacey is either sick, on drugs, or both. Dennis tries to comfort her but she's just weirded out.
Then they run over something and the tire goes flat. How typical, right? Well what they hit isn't typical. After a brief encounter on the roadway with the unidentifiable creature (which, in an apparent drug-induced stupor Lacey mistakes as a long-dead pet of hers but in reality looks more like a smooshed porcupine), they change the tire and head back down the road, okay until the car starts overheating. They pull into a gas station (I know, there just happens to be one nearby) and begin looking for the cashier/attendant after getting gas and some refreshments. Cause car-jackin' makes ya' hungry!!
Things go WAAAYYY downhill from there. They find the cashier. Or should I say he finds them. The car-jackers and the nice couple end up trapped inside the gas station with a parasitic creature of some sort trying to get in. It's like no other creature you've ever seen, and the effects are above average. If they used any CGI I don't know where. Almost immediately, the group is down to three and they end up working together on the same side against the terror.
This was really paced well, had satisfying character build-up with really good acting, a vastly superior amount of tension that is missing from so many films these days, and a plot worthy of multiple viewings.
The characters all go through a bit of an epiphany throughout the course of the movie, each finding strength they didn't know they had, as well as a few admirable traits that don't surface until near the end.
The reason the movie is called Splinter is apparent after a very short period of time. And like the tagline says, it will get under your skin. There isn't a huge amount of gore, but there are some very disturbing scenes, one in particular involving a utility knife that just about made me (yes, even me!) close my eyes... and that takes ALOT, people. ALOT. But I made it.
Seth, Polly, and Dennis try to figure out how to get free lottery tickets out of the machine...
Never, I repeat, NEVER... use the restroom at a gas station.
Alternate DVD cover
Splinter Official Site