Trapped in a petrol station in the middle of nowhere with an escaped convict and being chased by an alien – you could pretty much sum up the entire of Splinter in exactly twenty words, or probably less. In fact, you probably wouldn’t even need to sum it up, as from the moment you first get introduced to the characters then it’s incredibly obvious how the film is going to play out.
Here’s the feisty female lead who spends most of the film showing off her acting talent by hiding in a fridge in a tank top. Here’s the over-educated and incredibly everyman who eventually saves the day. Oh, and the killer with the heart of gold too; he isn’t bad, just misunderstood.
Despite the complete lack of invention or unexpected twists though, the film itself isn’t all that bad and, while I freely admit I was expecting Splinter to be the most laughable type of B-movie, it actually managed to rise above that expectation. It’s the type of mindless, generic horror that’s great for a Friday night in with a couple of friends and a bowl of popcorn.
With such an obvious array of characters and a forgettable cast though, it’s not all that shocking that it’s the titular Splinter parasite that steals the show in the same way that the Graboids are the best thing in Tremors. The Splinter beast has more in common with zombies than sandworms though, as it goes around slowly infecting people and turning them, which it does using the splinters that grow out of its body. All it takes is one pinprick and soon you’ll have the jaggies growing out of you too.
It’s this unusual but not original concept for the alien that creates the most brilliantly horrible parts of the film, as the splinters work inside the human hosts and bend their limbs back on themselves. There’s some real cushion chewing moments as elbows invert with a sickening, wet crunch and fingers bend backwards to scratch their own knuckles – all of which is just leading up to an amputation scene that harks back to Misery‘s famous hobbling scene.
The film paces itself pretty well when it comes to the gore too, spreading the dialogue and screaming out tolerably even if the characters are as comically unbelievable, as the point when the geeky character is cornered by an infected, amputated hand.
The pacing for the film is so good, in fact, that, predictable as the plot is, the characters never really seem to be missing out on some vital clue except in a few cases. Only rarely do you have to roll your eyes and question why the trio don’t just charge out to face the thing with the full supplies of the petrol station. That feeling only falls apart right at the end, in fact, at which point you have to question why they didn’t just make their escape at the very beginning of the escapade.
Feature-wise, the DVD extras on offer are adequate, if utterly uninteresting. The blunt fact is that there’s very few people who’ll be that enthralled by Splinter that they’ll want to watch a micro-featurette about how the petrol station was constructed. The creature concept art gallery is pretty enough to warrant a glance though, but it’s a shame that the potential high-point “How to make a Splinter pumpkin” is such a letdown. It’s such an obvious, limp piece of marketing fluff that it isn’t worth the disc space, as the “Splinter pumpkin” is basically a regular pumpkin with shards of plastic stabbed in it, nothing more.
The real question for Splinter fans then is whether to buy or rent, with our vote sitting firmly in the rent category. Splinter isn’t a bad film despite being a carbon-copy of the hundreds of identical films that preceded it, but it doesn’t warrant a re-watch. The DVD features are likewise worth a quick glance to anyone with time to spare, but that’s it as it’s all just filler and padding.
If you need a horror film to fill an evening with a pal or partner then Splinter has got you covered – but don’t expect it to be a long-term addition to your DVD library.