Monday, May 25, 2009

On Pins and Needles

Splinter (2008)

Using the old reliable horror movie stand by of trapping a handful of people in a remote location and having them attacked by somebody or something, Splinter is one of the better low budget examples of the genre. (This set up has been used in movies such as The Evil Dead, Feast, Alien, John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13, and even the John Wayne classic Rio Bravo.)

Splinter really pares down the cast though, having only four main characters and one small main set. At 82 minutes, there’s really not a lot of fat or wasted screen time. Polly and Seth (Jill Wagner and Paulo Costanzo) have their romantic anniversary camping trip in Oklahoma ruined when they are carjacked by ex-con Dennis (or Dee) and his strung out gf Lacey (Shea Whigham and Rachel Kerbs). After running over a weird, spiky animal and developing car problems the foursome wind up at a remote gas station. Something unknown is infecting animals and even people, causing them to sprout splintery spikes from their black and puss-y infected areas. Weirder still, infected limbs seem to have a life of their own, which in the movie comes across as funny and scary at the same time. (Come to think of it, it's like the premise of this movie was inspired by the Evil Dead 2 scene where Ash's hand is possessed by the demons and tries to kill him while still attached to his arm!)

The movie is largely effective, and tries to have some degree of intelligence about it. Only one sequence caused us to rise out of our seats in protest. POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD. After discovering the infected creatures zoom in on body heat, one of our survivors tries to lower their body temperature to mask themselves long enough to get to a sheriff’s car in the parking lot and call for help. Of course when you lower your body temp you become slow, uncoordinated and more than a bit disoriented - this is of course the perfect state in which to launch a rescue attempt. At this point we were all yelling our disbelief at the movie; I felt like a heckler at the worst stand up comedy routine of all time, sort of the Michael Richards of low budget horror heckling. END POSSIBLE SPOILERS.

But the cast and crew had fun making this movie and it shows on screen. So that one “speed bump” aside, if you want to watch a creepy, fun movie, and spill some popcorn along the way, get pricked by Splinter.

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