Sunday, January 03, 2010

Splinter (2008).

Splinter was one of those films that I didn't hear much chatter about, but kept crossing paths with the artwork. This alone had me interested in checking it out, I mean, how could it not?

This is another small cast, one location deal. Set for the most part in a petrol station in the middle of nowhere, the unfortunates who have encountered this thing barricade themselves in and have to fend it off/figure out a means of escape, which doesn't involve being part of a human meat finger buffet.

It takes a while to get going, I will say that. When there hadn't been a sniff of gore at around 25mins in, I was starting to slip into "Eh, Whatever"-ville. Thankfully, at just that moment a whole can of WHAT THE...? gets opened.

What I found interesting about this beastie, is that like The Thing (1982) this life form seems to regard and use individual parts of the human body independently. It wears us as a kind of ill-fitting suit, or utility belt. When confronted by something it wants to attack, the whole body isn't turned, it just directs the nearest body part towards its target - even if this means breaking or dislocating the part in question. It's kinda simple when you think about it, why would an invading organism respect the fleshy outer layer as we do? It's not theirs. But seeing it executed on film, it's really brutal in a way you don't see very often.

The below cap shows one victim, overcome by the "Splinter". It makes her bash her face into the glass again and again in an effort to break into the building and get to the survivors. Our bodies are just tools to them.

It is really nasty. Once infected, we are basically turned into barely recognisable, hulking, twitching, chirping lumps of meat.

In one of the DVD extras, director Toby Wilkins states that the horror from Splinter comes in not being killed by the monster. The fact that it gets inside you and takes you over is what is so terrifying a prospect, rather than just being bumped off outright.

One of the most gruesome moments in the film actually comes courtesy of the survivors themselves. When one of them realises he is infected, the remaining two perform an amputation of his arm to try and isolate said infection. Their tool of choice is a Stanley (utility) knife. Errrk. Loving the dialogue though; as he screams in pain while they saw through his limb, this is uttered in a comforting tone: "It's okay, we're cutting your arm off." Er, thanks?

Turns out - who'd have thunk it? - you can't cut through bone with a Stanley. So they have to finish the job by dropping a breeze block on the partially severed appendage, in order to take it off completely. Blimey.

They nailed the special effects here, I felt sick to my stomach watching this!

In fact, the effects in and of themselves deserve a big mention. Wilkins - who has worked more in the visual effects field than directing, according to IMDb - wanted to achieve as much as possible with practical: "I wanted the actors to have something to really respond to, rather than just a tennis ball on a stick."

For the monster work he found a gymnast who, when put into heavy make-up, could bend and crawl in an entirely inhuman fashion, in order to look like a broken body being worn by the parasite. CG was used only where absolutely necessary; everything else was wires, puppets, trick photography and the creativity of the special effects crew (info gleaned here).

Wilkins' inventiveness and enthusiasm shows. This is one of the most imaginative and arresting movie monsters I have seen in a good while.

It's such a shame then - especially taking in consideration the slow start - that the film seems to lose its way as the end nears.

Perhaps they weren't sure how to wrap things up? Leading to the climax is an overly long sequence where the male lead proves his mettle, but it feels silly and ill thought out. And yes, I realise calling something within a film themed such as this, "silly" is a bit pointless, but there must have been a better achilles heel to reveal of this thing. Or at least a less dumb way to exploit it.

I think this is the reason I felt a little unfulfilled as the credits rolled. It's such an interesting, fucked up idea for a horror critter that the film's load appears to have been blown on that, and that alone. The plot didn't have a strong enough back to carry the weight of such a cool creature.

Have an icky parasite movie night, featuring this and The Thing. Just be sure to end strong with Carpenter's effort.

1 comment:

  1. Great review - I thought Splinter was one of the better new releases of 2008.

    In other news:
    You're one of the 7 I'm passing this award on to: