Splinter Review

Splinter (2008)

Starring: Paulo Costanzo, Jill Wagner, Shea Whigham
Directed by: Toby Wilkins

The Premise

It's a bad day out in the country when yuppy city couple, Seth and Polly (Paulo Costanzo and Jill Wagner, respectively), are kidnapped by a pair of meth-addled fugitives, Dennis and Lacey (Shea Whigham and Rachel Kerbs, again, respectively), while on a botched camping trip for their anniversary. Some vehicle trouble leaves them broken down at a gas station with a bit of a parasite problem...

The First Stitches

The movie begins with a vertical pan over a lonely gas station. The attendant (played by Charles Baker) walks out and sets up a lawn chair  while munching on a bag of chips. Just as he settles, a noise catches his attention. Curious, he gets up to investigate the rustling in the grass only to find not only is something there, but it definitely isn't safe. Before he is able to attempt to back pedal, he is quickly taken down and torn apart by the shaky cam monster (in this case, a greasy, wet dog).

We jump to a couple in an SUV spiriting down the highway and onto a side route in the final leg of their camping trip in the wilderness. They find their spot and quickly begin to unload their equipment as the scene then jumps to another couple an undisclosed distance away. This pair's truck has obviously broken down on their apparent run to Mexico, so they've no choice but to continue their flight on foot. Back to the city slickers, some lack of outdoor preparedness mixed with some tent trouble sends them back on the road to find the closest motel they can. Soon they are waylaid by the fugitive couple by way of the classic hitchhiker ruse, who then force themselves into the convenient ride. Into the night, their troubles truly begin when they hit something that causes a blowout (among other damages) that sets into motion their inevitable break down at a desolate gas station.

"Oh shit...! He's about to start talking about the mo--"

Mending the Seams

Plot: I believe this movie had a pretty intriguing, albeit contrived, narrative. There were several elements that felt specifically forced -- the couples meeting on the highway and Seth's convenient pre-degree knowledge of biology to be specific -- but while these mechanics are in a way clich├ęd, the rest of the story keeps itself fresh with a different take on the "parasitic zombie" concept.

Characters: Let it be said I loved most of the characters in this movie. I've always been a bit of a Paulo Costanzo fan and I feel this performance did not disappoint. Each of the main actors did a fantastic job portraying their character, the show stealer easily being Shea Whigham's character, Dennis Farell. I was really pleased with this character as he didn't seem quite the typical jock -- there was a certain charm about him that really kept the story rolling. He was an asshole, yes, but he was also possibly the best character in the movie.

Window Licking -- You're doing it wrong.

Setting/Atmosphere: I liked the overall darkness and disparity of the scenery in this movie. At first I wasn't sure how I'd take to the gas station scenario, but as it moved along it felt appropriate for a good cramped and isolated location. I was impressed with the amount of tension built up as the story progresses. The only thing I didn't really like, though, was the lack of imagination in using the scenery. I was hoping for a scene involving an escape attempt that would maybe leave one of the survivors (or maybe even another random motorist) stranded in the bathroom from closer to the beginning, but instead we get the lobby and the cooler. That's it. On the plus side, they did use this space well and as the story develops, there is more of a sense of the store being under siege.

Special Effects: One place I was very happy with this movie was the special effects. I loved the look of the attendant slumped over the truck and the arm scene in the third act. The severed fingers in the second act were also on my list of favorites. And I may be wrong about this, but some of the effects with the blood during this scene may be explained with ferro fluids for all you budding horror effects artists out there.

I want one of these for my coffee table.

But that being said, there were parts I wasn't very fond of. The shaky cam previously mentioned and the scene with the "amalgam" monster towards the end. I felt the constant shaking, while denoting the speed at which the parasite makes its victims move, was a bit on the irritating side. The CG shot of the monster was also a bit disappointing as I feel it didn't really do the creature justice. There was also a scene after the police officer that involves a detached arm that I couldn't help but laugh at. These issues, though, were relatively minor as for the most part they don't last very long. The rest of the effects in the movie are most definitely spot on.

Music/Audio: There was a lot I liked about the audio quality of this movie. The sound effects were a perfect compliment to the already dark atmosphere and quite honestly, this movie actually made me cringe in a few parts, which I really didn't expect at first. The visuals were a big part of that effect, but what really sold it was the sickening sound effects. I also liked the nauseating clicking/gurgling sound the parasite causes its host to make while hunting its next source of food.

"...so what are you saying?"

The Binding Stitch

While there are some things I would have liked to see changed for this movie, I can't deny it was a fun ride and I'd definitely do it again. This movie was fun to take in because it stays simple and straightforward, not bogging itself down with plot twists and the like. There were some moments when the overall effect was a bit lacking, but it wasn't anything worth a serious gripe. I would recommend this movie for purchase to anyone who needs a good semi-gory flick to kick up their feet and turn their brain off to every now and again. For all else, it is worth at least a rental/viewing for being a little different than the rest.

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