7 April 2010

Fin's Review: Splinter

Splinter is not particularly ground-breaking or even particularly unique but what it is is both fun and creepy, something few horror directors achieve. Toby Wilkins, the special-effects maestro, reminds us that in horror it is often the most simple of set ups that give us the best pay off. Splinter is sparse, straightforward, fast-paced and effective. Wilkins provides further evidence, if any more were needed, that a simple story, a simple setting and a simple, well-written script are all you need to create an engaging horror movie. Wilkins adds a truly hideous creature to the mix and creates an old-fashioned thrill ride of a film.

Wilkins roots this film in some classic horror conventions - a couple on a romantic camping trip in the wild, a remote and creepy location, a geeky boyfriend and a bad yet ultimately noble villain - but despite these familiar features the film never feels clich├ęd. The direction, script and acting are strong enough to transcend the fairly standard horror set up and in some ways it is the familiarity coupled with the simple solid mechanics of the film that make Splinter a success. I'm all for directors having ambition and many of the problems associated with modern Hollywood films can be directly linked to a severe lack of ambition. However there is also something to be said for a director who knows exactly what his film is and what it can achieve. Wilkins is aware that this film is never going to be The Seventh Seal, so instead he uses the conventions of the genre and couples these with a taut script and believable set up to create an hour and half of engrossing, disgusting fun. This is a film you can escape into for a brief time and then forget, and in my opinion there is nothing wrong with that.

One aspect of the film that is truly memorable and should stay with you for a long time after seeing the film is the creature. The monster is truly hideous and something Wilkins can be justly proud of. As with the film itself, Wilkins builds upon a number of horror stalwarts to create his monster; however, unlike the film as whole, the director's creature is truly unique and memorable. The creature has aspects of Romero's zombies, Carpenter's Thing and Siegal's Body Snatchers. We have seen parasitical monsters which use the human body as host many times before this film, but what sets Wilkins' creature apart is how crap it is at using the human body. The monster in Splinter, like Carpenter's monster, takes over the body of any unfortunate it comes across,  man and beast, but unlike most creatures in horror the monster in Splinter does not know how each of its hosts work. Its shuddering, crawling attempts to best use its host bodies create a truly scary vision as the monster twists and turns in the most awful ways imaginable. The monster has to be seen to be believed - it is truly disturbing.

Splinter doesn't attempt to reinvent the wheel but rather uses the best of horror heritage and a simple effective story to create an engaging, creepy experience. This one is well worth a watch.

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