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cast: Shea Whigham, Paulo Costanzo, Jill Wagner, Rachel Kerbs, and Laurel Whitnett

director: Toby Wilkins

79 minutes (18) 2008
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Icon DVD Region 2 retail
[released 30 March]

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
One location, a handful of players... The popular film template picked up by Tarantino for Reservoir Dogs. The essential structure of George A. Romero's Night Of The Living Dead. The standard that should come in handy during a recession... Toby Wilkins' Splinter almost settles for less. Of the cast of six, two of characters are barely registered, a gas station attendant attacked during the opening credits and a female police officer (Laurel Whitnett) who just about has time to draw her gun. The story is therefore left to the aforementioned gas station and two couples.

Love's young dreamers Polly (Jill Wagner) and Seth (Paulo Costanzo) abandon a camping experience as too much of a hassle and go in search of a motel (their fantasy of how horrible the rented rooms might be could almost read of Vacancy). They come into contact with escaped convict Dennis (Shea Whigham) and his much younger and worryingly wired girlfriend Lacey (Rachel Kerbs). Held at gunpoint the young couple are forced to chauffeur the elopers but run over some local wildlife. The creature is made into road pizza, ingredients unrecognisable, and yet it reanimates with a lash of the tail. They stop at the remote, deserted station where Lacey finds the broken, bloody and reconfigured pump attendant on the floor of the toilet pleading with her to put him to death. She fails, and the pretzel kid snap, crackles and pops after her out onto the forecourt. It is not so much the pump attendant that attacks Lacey as it is his broken body, acting independently of his brain.

The destructive element in Splinter is a micro-organism, a mutation, and possibly the result of the experimental extractions signposted as taking place on the nearby field site belonging to Mid State Oil, Inc. (the film was shot in Oklahoma). The novel monster is a parasite reproducing in the body of its hosts, feeding on the blood, metabolising, digesting and absorbing the nutrients on a cellular level. The micro-organisms the works collectively contorting the body of the host, snapping bones, the splintering bodies forced in body-popping pursuit of other victims. In close-up shots the spines extend or shift like magnetised burr.

Most of the film is spent in the company of Polly, Seth and Dennis and the initially threatening hostage set-up gives way to a warmer but more unrealistic triumvirate. As the creature emits more spines each and any of which have the potential to infect the victim it is an unfeasibly daunting monster to overcome and you brace yourself for the 21st century worst. The horror is moderately gruesome and the film enjoyable, but as pleasing as the film is the old-fashioned assemblage is restrictive.

Splinter's invasive bio-monster is as devastating a devourer as the plant from The Ruins while other films jogged into recall include Tony Randel's Ticks, and Tim Boxell's Aberration in which science gone insectoid besiege a simple building in the middle of a wooded nowhere. It is an efficient film with a short running time. Performances are good, the dialogue and action has drive, and it is well-shot and edited, all of which is apparent despite the slightly squashed quality of the image on the screener. Splinter is a keen little monster romp.

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