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Trapped at gas station, a young couple and a convict must try to survive a deadly Splinter parasite that kills and transforms its hosts into mindless zombie-like killers.
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Seth Belzer (Costanzo) and Polly Watt (Wagner), a young couple out on a romantic retreat in the woods are held hostage by Dennis (Whigham) and his drug addicted girlfriend, Lacey (Kerbs). The four travel to a small isolated gas station where Lacey is attacked by an attendant who has been infected by the splinter parasite. After she dies, her corpse along with the corpse of the attendant terrorize the three remaining survivors who remain locked in the gas station. What happens next is a night of absolute terror and horror as the three characters work together to try and stay alive.
Splinter is successful on many levels, but mostly the film is fun and entertaining to watch. Most horror movies lack any character developments and unfortunately, any suspense. Wilkins provides not only interesting characters that are forced to work together but enough suspense to keep you engaged. The splinter parasite is an innovative take of the zombie genre and delivers on some great terrifying scenes that certainly leave an impression.
There is a formula for horror movies where one protagonist, usually a female, is the only one to make the right and smart decisions to help her and her friends survive to the end. Halloween is a perfect example of the heroine using her instincts to outsmart the relentless Michael Myers. However, Splinter avoids the typical pattern, and allows for these three characters to work off each other. The gradual increase in the threat of the splinters makes the heroes respond in a natural way. They see the threat and try to match it to survive.
All three work together, and while they bicker here and there, they never lose focus or get side tracked by some silly personal grudge. The young couple even grows to respect the convict who they learn is not as cold hearted as once thought, but he actually seeks to make sure all three make it out, not just him. Also worth mentioning is the chemistry among the actors. If you canít root for the heroes, then the outcome has no meaning or significance. The audience needs to be invested in the characters enough to care what happens to them in the end.
The key to any horror film is the suspense. That is the most essential element in any thriller, horror, or even science fiction film because if the suspense is done correctly, if enough buildup occurs prior to the payoff then the audience will remain captivated. The Blairwitch Project is a perfect example of a film using suspense as its main attraction. There is a sense of wonder that evokes a strong response from audience, especially horror films, and without that wonder the movie fails. Splinter does not suffer from that problem.
Itís hard for horror films to be unique or even the least bit interesting, but Wilkins provides enough innovation while honoring the classic elements that make up a horror film. There is enough here for all fans of cinema to enjoy. Splinter is a fun ride with enough thrills and scares to make a great viewing among friends or alone. Certainly worth seeking out, particularly for the best scene in any horror film in which one of the characters must literally rip off his own arm to prevent the parasite from consuming him. This graphic scene was recently nominated for a Screamfest Award for Best Mutilation but lost out to Saw V. A well made film with a short running time, Splinter is worth the 94 minutes of your time.