With vampires back being all the rage at multiplexes recently and equally iconic Wolf Man on the horizon, one would think (and hope) the sorely missed "creature feature" is due for a comeback.

I am happy to report that SPLINTER is a welcome, worthy addition to the modern monster-movie canon.
The premise is deceptively simple: a couple on a weekend camping getaway run afoul of a desperate man and his girlfriend, who carjack them at gunpoint with a plan to head for Mexico. Things take an unexpected turn when they accidentally hit something on the road and stop at a small, seemingly deserted gas station, only to be trapped there by a bizarre life form that reanimates and repurposes dead flesh.
Director Toby Wilkins, a visual effects artist himself, understands exactly how and when to most effectively utilize the creature elements of SPLINTER, and more importantly, how and when not to. Taking cues and inspiration most obviously from Carpenter’s THE THING, Wilkins succeeds where others have failed in the sense that he’s not trying to simply imitate Carpenter’s film while changing the setting. The characters and story are as important to the film as the special effects, approached intelligently and with the same care and attention. Actor Shea Whigham (Dennis) brings depth and complexity to a role that could have been ham-handed and pedestrian with the wrong casting. Once abductors and abductees realize they have a common enemy and need to depend upon and trust one another for survival, we really do want to see these people make it out alive.

On the technical side of things, the cinematography is sometimes a bit too “Bourne” Shakycam for my taste, but I suspect it was done more out of necessity than a stylistic choice, and is by no means a deal-breaker. Elia Cmiral’s prickly, bristling score does a wonderful job of aurally tying all the visual elements together.
The guys at Quantum Creations also deserve applause for some of the most interesting and imaginative creature FX I’ve seen in a lower-budgeted genre film in quite some time. The wonderfully grotesque ways creature appropriates the bodies (and limbs) of its victims really ratchets up the cringe factor. I also appreciate the mostly unknown nature of the beastie itself; there is an implied theory as to what it could possibly be, but its origins are never fully explained. I’m content enough to know what it does to those unlucky enough to come across it and let my imagination fill in the blanks.

SPLINTER is a smart and nasty little creature feature that is well worth your while. I believe its being released on DVD this January, so be sure to check it out!

~ Jsyn

back to: