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SPLINTER (2008) *** movie review by THE DARK SIDE CRITIC

Posted on December 16th, 2008
Posted on December 16th, 2008


Here’s a derivative, yet nasty little number that mooches from a few classic horror flicks but wins out on simplicity and quality.

Skinny biology PhD pansy-dude (Paulo Costanzo) and his unbelievably hot and fit survivalist-type girlfriend (the sublime Jill Wagner) go camping in the wilderness near some sort of experimental research lab. They get carjacked by Dennis “Carjack” Farrell (the underrated Shea Whigham) and his tweeked-out girlfriend I will only refer to as MethBabe because she ain’t worth a damn. On the way to wherever, they run over a raccoon… BUT THIS IS NO USUAL TRASHCAN BANDIT! Said ‘coon is infected with something… an alien virus… manmade super-bacteria… mutant porcupine. It’s covered in sharp quills and severely damages the radiator. It also attacks, causing the quartette to flee, screaming. They manage to make it to a remote gas station before the car craps out, but it’s deserted except for something spikey lurking in the restroom.

Add one part “Natural Born Killers,” one part “Feast” and two parts “The Thing” and you’ve got “Splinter.” The deal is, you gotta boil down those three films to their most basic parts and you have a bare bones version of a good idea. It’s what makes the film work, but it’s also what makes it a bit dull. It’s a lot of stuff you’ve seen before. It’s also very well done, so you take the good with the bad.

On the plus side, the monsters are absolutely terrifying. You don’t see much except for quick cuts of them shambling and loping towards their victims, but that’s all you need to see. It’s not like “The Thing” where John Carpenter let the camera linger on the monster to proudly display what he and Rob Bottin did with their meager FX budget. In “Splinter,” the budget was far lower (well, relatively) and quick cuts hid the flaws. It also made the creatures look shapeless and freaky. The way they moved and shuddered their quills gave me the jeebs.

The actors started off weak but by the third act you’re finally rooting for them. I wished the outlaw couple had been more badass and less pathetic. Also wish the biology wuss had been more likeable from the beginning (there’s no way in HELL he deserved Jill Wagner on any plane of existence). Jill rocks. Ever since those Mercury car commercials and the crappy “Blade: The Series,” I’ve been on the trolley with her.

She needs more high profile work. So does Shea Whigham whom I cheered for in “Wristcutters: A Love Story,” a movie I reviewed this past summer and liked (dig that review here). He’s instantly likeable and I can imagine him doing both comedy and serious roles with the greatest of ease.

If you have a hankering for a high-quality/low-budget monster flick, check this one out. It’s not too cliché, it’s simplistic but I’m willing to bet someone has big sequel plans for this one. With a bigger budget and a more complex plot, I can see this one becoming a huge genre franchise. Whaddya say out there, studios. Any takers?

Maybe this trailer will sweeten the deal…

P.S. I’m STILL holding your goldfish hostage!

-THE DARK SIDE CRITIC

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