Hey, remember that scene in THE THING where Kurt Russell has to slice the finger of each of his coworkers for a blood test in order to determine which one of them is The Thing? Remember that scene in EVIL DEAD 2 where Bruce Campbell has to lop off his own hand and then the evil possessed hand returns to torment the rest of him? Do you have a good time with that level of queasiness and cringe factor and nasty humor?
Then let me recommend SPLINTER, a recent horror flick which almost nobody anywhere seems to have seen.
The set-up: After their camping trip ends prematurely due to a malfunctioning tent, a young couple hits the road to find a motel. They’re hijacked by a criminal and his cracked-out girlfriend. So that outlaw couple takes the civilian couple hostage, we’re in a crime movie, okay, then all of a sudden the car rolls over a dog. Or a porcupine. Or something. Whatever it is, it’s angry. The human beings head to a gas station to regroup, only to find that something – a something related to the something they ran over – has invaded the area. Bad, ugly things proceed to happen, most often to human extremities.
I liked this movie for very simple reasons, although keep in mind that simplicity is very difficult to properly achieve in a horror movie:
o The suspense works. The characters have to quickly think and act their way through a series of set-pieces as they are besieged by an undefinable creature, and though I’ve seen this kind of set-up so many times before, I still couldn’t say for sure how it’d end up until it finally ended.
o I liked the lead couple (played by Jill Wagner and Paulo Costanzo) and I wanted to see them survive until the end of the movie. I believed that these two would be in a relationship; they complement each other’s personalities and abilities. Some might say that because she’s ridiculously beautiful and he kind of isn’t, they wouldn’t ever even date, but it does happen and the actors make it feel real. It’s solid casting, and hey, the criminal character is also particularly great in the movie. The guy’s name is Shea Whigham, and he brings an entertaining, wackadoo, bizarro Bill Pullman kind of energy to the role. (You may have since seen him in Boardwalk Empire, TAKE SHELTER, SAVAGES, MACHETE, and BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS.)
o The creature concept is awesome and original, and the latter adjective is especially rare in horror movies. I don’t want to reveal a thing, except that the monster is a good idea, one that I don’t remember seeing on film before, and I wanted to see more of it. (One criticism of the movie is that it leans way too hard on the Steadicam, still unfortunately way too en vogue, when instead it’d be more satisfying to eventually parcel out more money shots of the creature than we ultimately get.) The creature is creepy, gross, and believably lethal – even that aforementioned evil hand becomes intimidating.
o It was short. Arguably even too short. But I respect a movie that knows what it is. Gets in there, thrills and chills ya, then rolls credits. It ain’t Flags Of Our Fathers. It’s SPLINTER. 82 minutes is just about right, I think.
In a just world, a fun horror trip like this one would get the nationwide release that a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY #13 or a SAW #54 would receive. Then again, most good horror films are there to help remind us that this isn’t always a just world. So maybe the low profile of this movie is fitting, if not fair. But let’s change that a little. SPLINTER is a modest but solid fright-flick outing, and you’ll probably have fun with it if you’ve bothered to read this far.
More information can be found at the official site:
And I can be found on Twitter: @jonnyabomb