I know I’m not alone, but I love a good horror movie. The adrenaline rush you get from being genuinely scared is pretty much unbeatable, but sadly, the genre has been in trouble of late.
There’s the absolute turgid dross masquerading as horror films these days, for instance. And what with poor diluted versions of once brilliant Asian horror films, torture porn films that are hard to watch but cannot be described as scary, or the lowest end of the market – the remakes/re-imaginings of slasher films (especially those that are in the former colony referred to as PG-13s) – things are not looking good. I mean, Prom Night. Bloody hell. A film that was neither, scary, chilling or of any cultural significance whatsoever. I just want a film that offers true old school scares. So is there where Splinter comes in?
The plot revolves around a young couple (Paulo Costanzo and Jill Wagner) embarking on a romantic camping trip when, wouldn’t you know it, they’re carjacked by a dangerous convict and his drug addict girlfriend (Shea Whigham and Rachel Kerbs). Not far into their journey they run over a strange infected animal that pretty much takes the car out of action. Seeking shelter in a seemingly abandoned petrol station, they find themselves being constantly attacked by a horrifying parasitic creature that appears to live in the bodies of the dead.
After seeing very little promotion for the film, and being a natural pessimist, my hopes weren’t too high here, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. This is a very effective, edgy, little film, that invokes the spirit of classic horror films of old. It doesn’t try to be postmodern or ironic, it just does exactly what it says on the tin.
The title of the film comes from the creature itself. A twisted mash up of the dead that harks back memories of John Carpenter’s The Thing. Like many good films before it, the director (Toby Wilkins) only shows us quick flashes and close ups of the creature, letting our minds (and how twisted they can be) fill in the gaps.
That’s not to say that he’s trying to hide any poor effects you would expect from a small scale film like this. When in full flow, the special effects are a hideously beautiful sight to behold and when coupled with the sound of cracks and what can only be described as scritches (watch the film and tell me that’s not a good word to use), it put a chill up my spine..
It’s also nice to see a film that’s not gory just for the sake of being gory. Although Splinter has its moments (witness the scene involving a possessed hand that may even rival Evil Dead II), it never feels gratuitous and serves a purpose.
What few characters there are in the story seem real enough in context and are credibly acted by a cast of relatively unknown actors; although the character of the drug addict girlfriend is pretty annoying, she has the good grace to be dispatched pretty early on. It’s also nice to see characters who, when faced with the situation they find themselves in, instead of becoming mere fodder, act in a sensible manner and try and think their way out of trouble.
I can, thus, happily recommend Splinter to horror fans. It restores your faith that just maybe there are filmmakers out there looking to still make damn good horror films. It manages to take old ideas and somehow blends them together to make something original. How many films can say that at the moment?
It also shows Toby Wilkins to be a director to watch in the future. Let me just see what he’s got planned for us next…..a direct to DVD second sequel to the American remake of The Grudge…..?