Splinter is an independent flick that has been taking the devoted fans of the horror community by storm — and rightfully so: it’s a wonderful and suspenseful ride that is guaranteed to win over even the most jaded scare-seeker. Splinter manages to make the most out of very little: there is only one interior location (a gas station) and only six characters. Now, normally, a horror movie with one set and six people sends would-be viewers away screaming since it tends to invoke really painful memories of their high school drama class days, but don’t worry, Splinter will conquer that fear for you — free of charge. Another noteworthy tidbit about the film is that it’s the vision of first-time feature-length writer/director Toby Wilkins, who also help conceptualize the film’s frightening critter, and whose name will be in the Modern Horror Hall Of Fame at some point if he keeps this kind of work up.
The story here involves two young lovers, Polly (Jill Wagner) and Seth (Paulo Costanzo), who are out on a camping trip in the Southern part of the U.S. in order to celebrate their anniversary. When their tent proves to be too stubborn to set up, they opt to head to the nearest motel. Along the way, they are pulled over and subsequently taken hostage by an escaped convict named Farrell (Shea Whigham) and his white trash drugged-out girlfriend (it is the South after all), Lacey (Rachel Kerbs). Driving at gunpoint, Polly inadvertently runs something over on the road in the dark of night. Their tires punctured, they are left stranded at a seemingly-abandoned service station. However, the gas station isn’t as abandoned as one would think: as a matter of fact, the facility’s employee is still there — well, what’s left of him, that is. One might argue that he’s still “alive,” but his body has been taken over by a deadly parasitic organism that is best described as the unholy offspring of the Thing, the Blob, and a foul-tempered zombified porcupine. Trapped in an isolated mini-mart with only their wits, a few bullets, and numerous overpriced groceries, our heroes are in for one hell of a night.
If Splinter doesn’t sound like much, or if you think you’ve seen it all before, you’re in for a pleasantly gory and scary surprise. This is probably the best horror film you’ll see all year.
Released in the U.K. on DVD and Blu-ray by Icon Home Entertainment, Splinter boasts a widescreen transfer that presents the film in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. I was only sent a screening copy of the DVD (with timecode burned in throughout and the occasional “Property of…” watermark), but if the screening copy of the disc is an indication of how clear and lush the actual retail copy will be, I would definitely give it a thumbs up. Icon Home Entertainment’s retail copy also includes a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track and a Dolby Digital 2-Channel mix: the latter choice was the only one found on the screener disc, but, again, it more than sufficed. None of the special features from the Icon release were available on the screener disc, but according to the company’s website, bonus materials include two audio commentaries (one with director and cast, the other with director and crew); two podcasts; several featurettes; and a gallery.
As a side note, this U.K. release hits stores a full two weeks before the U.S. home video debut — so those of you in America with multi-regional DVD players won’t have to wait to see this exciting and entertaining mini-masterpiece.