Splinter (2008)
By: James Gillett on September 10, 2009  | 
DVD
Icon (Australia), Region A, B, C. 1080P, 24p. 2:35:1 (16:9 Enhanced). English DD TrueHD 5.1, English IPCM 2.0. 82 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Toby Wilkins
Starring: Shea Whigham, Paulo Costanzo, Jill Wagner, Rachel Kerbs
Screenplay: Kai Barry, Ian Shorr, Toby Wilkins
Country: USA
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
A young couple, Seth (Paulo Costanzo) and Polly (Jill Wagner), find their anniversary camping trip interrupted when an escaped convict Dennis (Shea Whigham), and his drug-addict girlfriend Lacey (Rachel Kerbs), jack their car on an isolated country road. Arriving at a service station soon after, the group discovers something is seriously wrong before retreating indoors from an aggressively deadly organism.

Splinter is a good old fashioned siege story with a neat little angle; and it's one that really sets it apart. Yes, I'm talking about the splinters. These black little spikes are one nasty adversary, and they're damn hungry too, which is a bad combination if you're stuck in the middle of nowhere with some bad company. See the thing is, these little 'splinters' are a kind of parasite that likes to latch on to a living host. There not fussy, animal or human will do. And once they get you, you become something else...

First and foremost, it really is the creature deign and effects in Splinter that go a long way to making this film what it is. Kudos to writer/ director Toby Wilkins on a great concept superbly realised. The splinters, growing before your eyes, manage to creep you out on an almost primal level. There's just something genuinely freaky about these little spikes, but somehow they're nothing compared to the sight of what these things can do to a host body. Let's just say it's quite unlike anything in mainstream horror.

Splinter didn't have the luxury of a big budget, but you wouldn't know it. Shot digitally, its one fine looking movie. So good that I didn't even realise it wasn't film until afterwards, which is something of a compliment since that was the director's desired effect. The only complaint to be levelled at the films visuals would be the unfortunate, but fairly vigorous, shaky-cam moments. They're not common, but they do detract heavily from the tension in a few instances, particularly towards the climax. It's a shame because those few occasions are surrounded by what's otherwise a beautifully shot film.

It's hard to watch Splinter and not be reminded of horror classics of years past. There are certainly elements here that echo films like The Thing and The Mist, with a certain amputated hand seemingly playing homage to Evil Dead II. Having said that, these elements are woven into a bunch of very effective scenes and the central menace is so striking and original in its presentation that it's impossible to care. It's really the strength of the creature concept that keeps this film fresh in a story that could otherwise end up feeling somewhat familiar.

The characterisations are reasonably strong too, even displaying occasional flaws and insecurities, increasing their identifiability. Much of the film takes place in one location, so that aspect of the writing becomes something of a saving grace. Casting also seems to be right on the money with the three central performances strong enough to carry the film through both its quiet and dramatic moments. Jill Wagner proves to be a standout as the tough, fiery heroine. The dynamic between her and her boyfriend, played by Paulo Costanzo (Road Trip) is another strength; he's passive and geeky, she's hot and assertive. It shouldn't work, but it does. Shea Whigham does well playing what's essentially the rouge of the piece. He has quite a character tightrope to walk, but he manages it to pull it off convincingly.

Trivia Bites: Splinter has won a variety of festival awards including 6 at Screamfest in LA (Best Picture, Direction, Special Effects, Editing, Score and Make-Up) and Best Picture and Special Effects at Sydney's A Night of Horror film festival.
Video
Presented at 2:35:1 in 24p, Splinter looks great on Blu-ray. The digital photography translates perfectly to HD and even achieves an almost film-like quality. The colours, especially evident in the introductory scene, are vibrant. A strong transfer well above the norm for a low budget film.
Audio
A choice of IPCM Stereo or Dolby True HD. The True HD track is strong and makes great use of the surround sound channels. Dialogue is also clean and crisp. Absolutely no complaints here.
Extra Features
Audio Commentary with Toby Wilkins (Director), Shea Whigham (Dennis), Paulo Costanzo (Seth) and Jill Wagner (Polly). This commentary plays a little on the lighter side with plenty of humour and amusing comments. Whigham gives some insight into the acting process while the others share a little trivia.

Audio Commentary with Toby Wilkins (Director), Nelson Cragg (Cinematographer) and David Michael Maurer (Editor). This track focuses on the production side of things including the shooting conditions and some technical details. It's good, but will no doubt appeal more to those interested in the filmmaking process.

The Wizard Special FX Featurette – 1.09mins This Featurette focuses on 'The Wizard', the ex-army vet turned special Effects guy in charge of the films explosions.

Splinter Pumpkin – 2.19mins Jill Wagner teachers us how to turn a pumpkin into a 'Splinter Pumpkin', which essentially involves sticking little black shards of vinyl into small incisions in the pumpkin's side. It a bit of fluff, but I must say they actually look pretty good!

Construction - The Creation of the Gas Station – 1.53mins Here Toby Wilkins talks about turning an unused roadside building into the Service Station set required for the film.

Weather - Lots of It! – 1.56mins A little on the trying weather conditions in Oklahoma and the affect it had on shooting the film.

Shooting Digitally – 2.23mins Toby Wilkins talks about shooting digitally and how far the technology has come in the last few years.

Make-up and Creature Tests – 4.06mins An interesting segment on the creature make-up effects and the gymnast and mime that lent their talents to creating some of the strange moments required.

HDNet - A Look at Splinter – 4.34mins A general featurette on the film with interviews from the director.

Conceptual Art Gallery - The Creature – 1.26mins Some conceptual drawings of the creature presented in slideshow fashion.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Splinter has just about everything you could ask for in a horror film; Suspense, gore, strong characters and a truly memorable creature. Simply: a very effective genre piece. Horror fans, this is one flick that's definitely worth your time.

The good news continues as Icon has presented the film in a strong Blu-ray release. Picture and sound are excellent and the special features (if brief) are both interesting and entertaining. A good release all round, and an easy choice over our barebones region 4 DVD.

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