If you went to the movies last weekend you might have seen a trailer for a horror film called Splinter. You might have also noticed that the trailer was complete shit, telling you absolutely nothing about the film is or why you should see it. That’s where we come in…. because this is the kind of throwback horror movie that we don’t see enough of these days.

Splinter follows the story of Dennis (Shea Whigham), who, along with his girlfriend Lacey (Rachel Kerbs) are on the run from the law. Dennis is an escaped convict and has dozens of state troopers after them, but they’ve been able to avoid them pretty well so far. Their luck finally runs out when their car dies on a highway, and they hide it and wait for someone to come to their aid.

Seth (Paulo Costanzo) and Polly (Jill Wagner) are the two suckers that stop for the supposed hitchhikers, and soon find out that they’re in deep trouble… Dennis has a gun and wants them to take him for a ride. The tension is soon obvious between the men- as opposed to the alpha male machismo of Dennis, Seth’s a little wimp. His girlfriend’s driving the car because he can’t drive stick, and he doesn’t even know how to change a tire when they run over something in the road. It’s obvious that he’s going to take a lot of shit from him but soon they stop at a gas station for food and gas, and his problems evaporate for entirely new ones. The thing they ran over in the road seemed to be infected with something, and while Dennis got stuck with a splinter that was embedded in the tire (and didn’t tell anyone) it isn’t till they see what’s left of the gas station attendant that they realize that something is very wrong here.

The attendant’s got black splinters sticking out from his skin, and his bloody body is bending and snapping in ways no person could. When he sees the people he immediately attacks and in the confusion Lacey gets taken out.

The remaining three take shelter in the gas station and band together to find a way out alive.

The first thing that you’ve got to know about this film is that it’s the directorial debut of Toby Wilkins, a British special effects wizard. So you know the effects are going to be incredible, and indeed, they are clearly the high point of the film. Also notable is the fact that there’s not a drip of CGI to be found here- everything was done on-set, bloody and gory and just old school practical goodness.

While it’s refreshing to see a horror movie that relies solely on practical effects, the camerawork is erratic and very much of the MTV generation. Rather than linger on an infected person the camera jumps all over the place, shaking and spinning as if the victim was handling it. For a movie that relies on such a body horror premise (that really hearkens back to old Cronenberg and Carpenter) it’s a bit of a shame to see it seemingly shy away from the effects at points and not let us get a good look at what’s going on.

Not to say that gorehounds won’t be in heaven here. They will be. The movie’s pretty nasty at points, and just wait till you see what this parasite can do. This is one brutal film.

Since this is really a small character piece it’s good that they hired some competent actors here. The problem is there’s just not enough meat to their roles. They all have backstories and there’s an interesting bit of drama between the three as they fight to be alpha male (or woman) but it’s just not substantial enough to really make you feel bad for these people. And even though they try their best to humanize Dennis, the Stockholm syndrome on display is almost laughable. I understand that fighting for your survival can make you do silly things, but c’mon.
But Splinter is an original horror movie at a time where we’re increasingly getting watered-down, weaksauce PG-13 horror for the tween crowd, and for that it’s to be commended. If it’s playing near you do your best to check it out! It’s like a rollercoaster, short and entertaining, and you’ll definitely enjoy the ride.

8 out of 10

hits theaters in a limited release this Friday, October 31st. Check the official site for more info. If you
see Saw V instead of this I hope you lose your genitals in a wheat thrasher.