Splinter is the story of a group of people trapped inside a gas station while a creature fights to get in. The itself creature is unique, but this is an otherwise standard horror flick lifted by some truly tense sequences and brought back down by aggravating camera work.
A young couple is carjacked and led to a gas station but not before they run over something in the road. That “something” just happens to be the creature, or at least part of it. The unidentified monster (if you can call it that) begins ripping into flesh, causing the skin to erupt with black, sharp splinters. The best the audience gets is that it’s some form of parasite that takes over the body of its victim.
Splinter is brutal, and it’s not shy about showing the after effects of the parasite attack. Limbs are broken, skin is shredded, and heads dangle off the body once infected. For a low budget thriller, the effects are impressive.
Unfortunately, whether it’s for style or an attempt to hide the lesser part of the effects, director Toby Wilkins uses a nauseating strobe/shaky cam/shutter lens effect with every attack. It doesn’t add to the intensity or panic, but instead makes you wish for a second of steady, normal camera work. If you don’t want the audience to see the full creature, this isn’t the way to handle it.
The film works best when it slows down. Sequences of the survivors trying to find a way to escape (except for a boneheaded forest fire idea) work incredibly well. Wilkins' style delivers a couple of great scares, although that’s partially due to the overbearing sound mix. Dialogue is can barely be heard over the action which is mixed at least five times louder than speech.
With actual camera work, Splinter could have been a solid creature feature despite its traditional and familiar setting. Instead, the movie falls apart when the action kicks in, becoming a distracting, confusing mess that wastes its potential. It’s a brisk 80 minutes of film so it’s not a complete waste of time, but it could have been time better spent.