Splinter definitely slipped under the watchful gaze of the Love Horror hounds.
It was only some years after its release, that we had the opportunity to experience this curious horror film via the medium of satellite television.
Driving late one night, a young couple are flagged down by an older couple who seem to need some roadside assistance. Sadly this act of kindness turns out to be a mistake when the older guy, Dennis turns out to be an escaped criminal and the young lovers are forced at gunpoint to help he and his girlfriend Lacey, flee ‘the law’.
But it’s while they’re stopped at a gas station that things get weird and horrible, as Lacey is approached by someone who appears to be the victim of a strange virus that has made their skin look all dark and smushy.
The affliction also forces the body to contort and look very freaky, causing some hysteria.
Dennis’ girlfriend is the first to be attacked by this ‘thing’ that has twisty arms, flailing legs and black bristles spouting from patches of decaying skin.
Soon she too is looking worse for wear, flopping around like a human slinky.
Trapped inside the gas station, the three survivors must overcome their differences to find an escape route and avoid a sticky, stretchy end.
Paulo Costanzo does well to take adopt the lead in this horror role, moving from his past comedic appearances in Road Trip and the Friends following flop sit-com Joey. Beyond the first 10 minutes, the tension is unrelenting and the mutating infection which is reminiscent of the paracite in John Carpenter’s The Thing is enough to put any horror fan off their tea.
The performances are good all round, with each of the cast conveying ‘edginess’ with natural ease. Shea Whigham’s man on the run (Dennis) epitomises ‘rogue’, meaning you can never be sure whose side he’s really on.
The gas station is an isolated and claustrophibic place (similar to that in The Mist), and the relationship between our main characters is well guaged and realistically hostile. Can the young couple trust their one time kidnapper? And can he trust that they won’t put a knife in his back at the first opportunity?
A major strength of Splinter is the unexpectedness of it all. It’s a highly unlikely and unexplained set of circumstances, but the character dynamics and terrifying threat help the viewer to overcome all that.
It’s hard to tell where you’d rather be. Outside with the weird twisty, infections monster, or inside with the angry red-neck who may have the infection anyway.
And the viewer remains in this area of uncertaintly for much of the film which is unnerving and refreshing, particularly from a film that didn’t get nearly enough spotlight given some of its qualities.
The special effects are nasty, the cast solid and Splinter is a prime example of Indie horror done well, and it’s sure to leave a lasting impression on those who watch it.
It really will ‘get under your skin’, just like the strapline says.