I decided to watch Splinter after watching the 2014 film The 50 Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen on Amazon Prime . I’ve been chipping away at the list since June–I have 13 left–and I have to say most of the film’s recommendations have been solid. If not for that list I may have never watched cult classics like Burnt Offerings or Alone in the Dark (Not the Uwe Boll version, oh god.) Though not all of the recommendations have been good. There’s no reason anyone should have to witness the laughable onslaught of giant rats in Food of the Gods or the rapey sea creatures in Humanoids from the Deep. Splinter aka #20 sits somewhere in between good and bad. It’s not a must see movie for horror fans but it’s not a bad film. It has good performances and a unique antagonist. I just wish that wasn’t all it had.
Filmed and set in Oklahoma City, a welcomed change of pace for a film to be set, Splinter is about a group of survivors chased into a convenient store by a black urchin-like fungus that can take over living creatures via you guessed it, splinters. In a way, it beat The Last Us to the punch in using a mind-controlling parasitic fungus. Both properties I assume were inspired by the real-life parasitic fungus Cordyceps. Which is a cool idea but with Splinter you can tell they were limited financially in how much they could actually do and explore.
The story concerns a couple, Seth Belzer (Paulo Costanzo fresh of the heels of the hit Friends spin-off Joey) and Polly Watt (Jill Wagner), on a romantic getaway to the ancient forests of Oklahoma, which is a real thing apparently. Polly is confident and outgoing while Seth is a whiny bitch. He’s also close to being a doctor but he’s still a bitch. Meanwhile, we are introduced to another couple, an escaped convict, Dennis Farell (Shea Whigham), and his drug-addict girlfriend, Lacey Belisle (Rachel Kerbs). These two groups cross paths when Dennis tries to carjack the other couple only to have the vehicle’s wheel flattened by running over, you guessed it, a splinter!
The group holds out in an isolated gas station convenient store as the splinter tries to find ways in. Lacey becomes infected resulting in her becoming a gross splinter zombie. Dennis is also infected at one point but Seth, using his doctor skills, manages to remove the infected limb before the fungus spreads. This leads to an entertaining sequence where an infected hand is crawling around the floor a la Evil Dead II. The effects aren’t bad for a low budget film, though the use of dizzying camerawork and quick edits does cheapen the results a bit.
There isn’t anything particularly unique to where Splinter goes or what any of it means. It’s just a fun time. Sure, the movie has that “SyFy Channel Movie” vibe but it’s better paced and acted than most of those films. I only wish we got to see more of what the splinter could do. It’s kind of like if John Carpenter had to make The Thing for half the budget. It might be okay but you’d constantly feel like it’s not living up to its full potential. Regardless I’m glad someone took a stab at this idea.
I gotta HAND it to the filmmakers. This thing is pretty creepy.