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STUDIO: Magnolia Home Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 82 minutes
• The Splinter Creature
• The Wizard
• Building the Gas Station
• Shooting Digitally
• Oklahoma Weather
• How to Make a Splinter Pumpkin
• HDNet: A Look at Splinter
• Creature Concept Art Gallery
• Director & Cast
• Director & Crew
An impromptu double-date leads to a Quickie-Mart fulla Dead Space.
Cast: Paulo Costanzo, Jill Wagner (HAWT!), Shea Whigham, Rachel Kerbs
Director: Toby Wilkins
Beatrix may have learned the “Five Finger Exploding Heart Technique” from Pei Mei, but she mastered the “Three Finger Grab Her Like a Bowling Ball Technique” under The Tall Man’s tutelage.
Magnolia Home Entertainment continues their terrific streak of quality genre fare (Let the Right One In, Special, Timecrimes) with Splinter, in which a pair of carjackin’ white-trash fugitives detour our two leads from their romantic camping trip, and wind up in a remote area inhabited by roadkill-and-gas-station-attendant-wearing parasites. This low-rent “The Mist meets The Thing” (much like its contemporary, Alien Raiders) shows what kind of quality you can achieve on a low budget DTV creature feature.
Is it a Monster-piece or POS?
Here there be SPOILERS! Taxonomically speaking, Splinter exists somewhere between the overhyped Cabin Fever and the classic Blob remake. A needle-ish organism that infects its host, feeds upon it from within, and utilizes the leftovers for rudimentary locomotion. The human anatomy is transformed, bent, and recombined to suit the needs of the fungus-like beastie. Director Toby Wilkins has transformed, bent, and recombined classic horror conventions to suit his own needs and tell a new tale. Fortunately for me, I dug the hell out of the results (as did Alex, read his review from last year). Do yourself a favor though, watch the disc instead of the neutered SciFi Channel version.
On more than one occasion I was reminded of The Ruins (highlight: due to the instinctual motives, invasiveness, and nature-based form of the creature, and because of the wicked amputation scene) throughout my viewing, but that’s fine as I ate up that flick too. Yeah, the characters in Splinter make some questionable decisions throughout (fire around all that fuel???), and the bio-grad (theories, he haz em) male lead is clearly out of his league even by geek wish-fulfillment standards, but the WTF situation they find themselves in and the levels for which the actors strive allow me to overlook these minor issues. Plus, TV Blade’s Jill Wagner can Rock a tank-top. And she does.
The creatures? Nothing reaches Rob Bottin’s brilliance in JC’s The Thing (what will?), as we only see glimpses of the monster/s (ala Alien) in shadows and amongst shaky cam, but the gore and violence on display here is well done and unnerving. The film-makers use reverse footage, clever editing, skipped frames, gymnastic performance, latex and magnetic ferrofluids (look up some bizarre demos on youtube) to make the most with the very limited budget they have. The organism-puppeteered bodies are probably more Dead Space Necromorph or Halo Flood than Evil Dead or Re-Animator, but familiarity does not breed contempt here and homage (unintentional or not) is welcome by me, as long as it’s handled capably.
Additional elements add to the relentless survival horror these ceremoniously-emasculated main characters must endure:
• loose cannon kidnapper companions
• close quarter confinement
• the mystery of the “antagonist’s” origin and physiology
• the realization these parasites don’t just kill you
• witnessing the human form broken and used in unnatural ways (ouch!).
The makers of Splinter concocted the right batch… Cross-pollinate the character-based high tension of a creature-sieger with the body horror of a corpse/part-animator, utilize fine practical FX (with just enough effective CGI), grab some above-average actors and stick them in a gas station during a 100 degree production in the Oklahoma heat, and Viola! You end up with a brisk and kinetic Screamfest “Best Picture” winner that I don’t mind recommending or revisiting.
One thing’s for certain… You will believe a severed hand can gallop.
The Return of the Son of Blood Beard Strikes Again!
The Sony HD digital camera pulled focus nicely and kept the individual foreground and background layers separated in the busy store environment (a concern of the film-makers). The widescreen formatting and quality sound design also helped to elevate this presentation above other DTV schlock. I would have preferred they went with the more elegant poster image, instead of the busier cover they chose, but I understand their decision from a marketing POV. The Director & Cast and Director & Crew commentaries are laid back and educational repectively. Magnolia has loaded this disc with half a dozen or so pleasant bite-sized featurettes, but a real treat would have been some Jill Wagner sans-tank-top bonus scenes.
Action for Children’s Television triumphed again as Mutie the Mutated Mutant™ was quickly replaced by a purple Carnosaur. Boo! Hiss!
*If this one got under your skin, check out: Altered, The Roost, Slither, The Ruins, Isolation