Is there anything worse than wasted potential in a horror film? It’s bad enough with any genre, granted, but in horror? When you can have so many of the right ingredients and still somehow manage to squander them all? It breaks my heart to say it, but that’s precisely what 2008’s Splinter did.
For anybody who hasn’t yet had the pleasure, Splinter focuses on a young couple (Jill Wagner and Paulo Costanzo) who, along with a fugitive (Shea Whigham), get trapped in an isolated petrol station by a parasite that turns it’s hosts into deadly porcupine-type beings.
Things started reasonably well
My initial impressions were actually pretty good considering what they had dissolved into by the end of the film. All that wilderness at the beginning was the perfect setting for human-porcupine hybrids to run riot, especially when nighttime came. Pair this with the eery score that, together with the general sounds of the forest, really built a sense of dread in a very isolated environment, and I think I could be forgiven for thinking that it showed some promise right at the start. Ah, if only it had have delivered on half of what I thought it had teased!
Sadly, the film didn’t hang around in the great outdoors. In fact, it ran out of gas shortly after reaching the petrol station ironically enough. It massively limited itself with what it could do once everyone was inside. Obviously the goal was for everyone to survive, but there weren’t many options for how they could achieve this. It made the experience very tiresome if I’m honest. Every struggle felt like it was only running the clock down, rather than adding to the overall plot.
The victim of a common affliction
The downfall of many horror films over the years has been stupid characters, and Splinter is no exception to that rule. Some very questionable decisions were made by the main characters here, so the eye rolls were coming thick and fast. Sprinkle in the hysterics that followed later on and they really did become quite an insufferable bunch. This made a strenuous watch even harder, although I will admit that Shea Whigham’s character’s disbelief at how useless were at first was one of the few things I could get on-board with.
Whilst the characters themselves weren’t anything to write home about, I have to give credit to the actors. Rachel Kerbs in particular gave a stand-out physical performance despite having relatively little screen-time. It was a fairly insignificant silver lining in the grand scheme of things, but a silver lining all the same.
Splinter needed to show more
It’s fair to say this film could be described as something of a creature-feature. Given the fact that this was such a low-budget project, I had high hopes for some good old-fashioned practical effects. Now, I would love to say that the film delivered on at least one of the things I had hoped to like about it, but I honestly couldn’t tell you whether it did or didn’t. The monster was shot so close up and edited together so quickly it was impossible to get a proper look. I love to be able to drink in the beasts at the heart of monster movies, and I didn’t get that here.
However, it wasn’t just the shots of the creature that suffered from this. Much of the action sequences were also cut together haphazardly, making it hard to see what was going on. What made this especially disappointing was the fact it sounded like a fair bit was happening just out of sight.
I really wanted to like this film…
It had so many of the right ingredients but it failed to make anything decent out of them. Splinter could have been a brilliant film with a nightmarish creature at its core, but unfortunately it backed itself into a corner far too early on. Even with the things it did have going for it – and goodness knows those were few and far between – it just turned out to be incredibly dull. Not one I’d recommend I’m afraid to say!