Nov. 1, 2008 -- After seeing Splinter, you might never regard a harmless sliver the same way again.
This tale of a spiny fungal parasite that feeds off ordinary humans who then sprout thorny quills is a fairly well-acted and entertaining horror flick. It features many of the standard devices of scary movies: a young couple who go off into the woods for a romantic camping holiday, a creepy escaped convict, a flat tire on a deserted road, slimy creatures who inhabit their victims and turn them into deadly hosts.
That last part is a more recent addition to the genre, but a viable one, nonetheless.
Polly (Jill Wagner) and Seth (Paulo Costanzo) are a happily dating couple, who, at Jill's urging, decide to go camping to celebrate their anniversary. Jill is the more earthy and accomplished outdoorsperson, while Seth is a brainy but seemingly clumsy scientist. They have just begun to set up a tent when things go wrong. And of course, things get much worse from there.
They are carjacked by sleazy Dennis (Shea Whigham) and his loony girlfriend, Lacey (Rachel Kerbs). They're an oddly devoted pair, but they're also trouble with a capital T. She's a druggie, he has just escaped from prison, and both are on the run from the law.
When Polly's car breaks down with the four of them inside, Lacey and Seth stumble upon what looks to be roadkill. But, appearances are deceiving, and the thing rapidly reveals itself to be a flattened victim of a blood-crazed creature. If attacked, its victims turn into mutant hedgehog-style zombies.
The panic-stricken folks run for their lives and find shelter at an abandoned convenience store/gas station, where they must work together to escape and outwit the insatiable monster on the loose. A particularly gruesome scene involves an ineffectual state trooper who is mangled by the creature. In contrast, the fast-paced editing and flickered camerawork can be jarring and less effective than the more stately paced suspenseful scenes.
Splinter is no exploitative blood bath or torture horror like the Saw movies. It's more of a thriller along the lines of The Thing or Alien. The scares are equal parts psychological jolts and gore. This is classic Halloween fun, with plenty of thrills and chills, surprisingly believable performances, and healthy doses of humor.