Splinter

Splinter

2008, R, 82 min. Directed by Toby Wilkins. Starring Paulo Costanzo, Jill Wagner, Shea Whigham, Rachel Kerbs.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 31, 2008

Featuring as it does shape-shifting fungal porcupines from outer space, Splinter handily wins this month's "Whaaa …?!" competition by a huge, um, prick. Granted, the only other entrants are Saw V and Quarantine, but they're both masterful exercises in pure logic and conservative plotting compared with this wild ride into headache-inducing shaky-cam land. Splinter initially gets by on sheer weirdness alone; reanimated roadkill sprouting wicked-looking black spines is not a horror trope I've come across before. Too soon though, it metastasizes into just one more film about honeymooners and white-trashers trapped in a rural gas station by things unknown. It's a smallish subgenre, which also includes Stephen King's Maximum Overdrive and Robert R. McCammon's Nightcrawlers (the latter adapted by William Friedkin for CBS' mid-Eighties Twilight Zone restart), and it riffs on genre godfather George Romero's original Night of the Living Dead but manages none of that nightmare's doomster wit or gut-churning horror. Here, Costanzo and Wagner are a mismatched pair of young lovers – Costanzo's Seth is first portrayed as an emasculated, bespectacled wuss, Wagner's Polly as a leggy, blond überfrau – who are carjacked by Whigham's gun-toting convict Dennis and his tweaker squeeze Lacey (Kerbs) while camping out on Rural Route, USA. Whigham (Wristcutters: A Love Story) is the best thing Splinter has going for it. His bandit-on-the-lam skittishness plays into the film's overall sense of minor-league paranoia, but it's hardly enough to qualify as a groundbreaking performance. The only truly jarring moments happen in macro shots of the parasitic creature's nasty pokers extruding from the pores of the dead and soon-to-be-dead. It's a totally original concept, monsterwise, and appreciated as such, but you come away from Splinter feeling it would have made a far more effective short than the feature-length drag it is.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Splinter, Toby Wilkins, Paulo Costanzo, Jill Wagner, Shea Whigham, Rachel Kerbs

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