APRIL 15, 2010
SOURCE: CABLE (SHOWTIME)
It’s rare I see a new film as seemingly under-the-radar as Splintered. Even if I had seen it at a film festival, I’d be surprised with its relative lack of coverage: it doesn’t even have a basic Wikipedia page, the IMDb page has but 4 user reviews (no external ones), and the messageboard only has a few general inquiries (including someone who was looking to be cast in it). It doesn’t even seem to have a DVD release, which is odd for a 2 year old film that’s airing in the middle of the night on cable (as opposed to a prime-time “world premiere” or something).
And it’s a shame, because the movie is pretty good. I like when a horror film takes a generic setup (in this case, 5 kids going into the woods) and ultimately applies it to a different type of movie, and does things differently to boot. Regardless of the killer’s archetype, you assume that the obvious Final Girl will be left alone for the bulk of the film while her friends die one by one after scattering for whatever reason. But nope, our heroine is taken hostage early on, leaving her friends to go look for her (and then die one by one). Adding to this wrinkle is the fact that she was the one who dragged them out there to begin with, so there’s this oddity to the procedure - the friends have to venture out into the unknown parts of the woods to find their friend, despite the fact that it’s the sort of action that made them not want to be there in the first place.
I also liked that they used cell phones, instead of simply going the dead battery/no service route. Service is actually just spotty, so messages are received later than they were sent, adding to the confusion. The phones don’t help much in terms of getting help, but it’s nice to see that the kids have some means of contacting one another for once, even if it ultimately doesn’t really do them any good. I mean, look - I wouldn’t keep watching these movies if I didn’t have a soft spot for the basic formula. I don’t want someone to reinvent the wheel - it’s the little changes and inventions that make me happy.
I was also reminded of the Friday the 13th remake, as it also had our heroine chained up for most of the movie. The difference is, our girl here is way more proactive, and genuinely interesting beyond “well she’s not a slut so she’s our final girl”. In fact, her sexual hang-ups are part of the plot: throughout the film she/we flashback to being afraid of a monster that appeared to her when she was younger. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out who the “monster” was, but maybe a genius should have been hired to come up with a better way of having her get over this trauma (basically screaming “I’m not a virgin!” to the killer as she takes him down). It’s rare to see sexual abuse dealt with in a horror movie (Nightmare on Elm St is the only other one that I can think of, and it was phased out anyway) and while the resolution to this aspect of her character is a bit hokey, I appreciate them having the balls to try.
Another thing I appreciate? The fact that the filmmakers are obviously Supernatural fans - the three main male characters are named Sam, Dean, and John, and the movie as a whole felt like an old-school (pre-angel nonsense) episode setup, where they hear about something freaky and just drive there to check it out as if there weren’t law enforcement groups to deal with it.
It gets a bit confusing near the end though - are they just feral, or do they indeed have some sort of werewolf powers? They certainly seem to be stronger than regular humans, and one of them obviously freaks out when the full moon rises. There are also a couple of visuals that I’m not sure if they were hallucinations or legitimately happening. Speaking of which, there’s a dream scene early on that is way too obviously a dream sequence right from the start. Word of advice - if you’re putting your main character in a dream sequence that the audience is supposed to think is real, then it has to start with some semblance of reality. Here, our girl “wakes up” in the car and all of her friends are gone. We as a horror audience know that the others aren’t dead yet, and they as characters wouldn’t just leave her in the car without telling her where they were going. So the suspense of the scene was deflated before it even really began. So when we’re supposed to think it’s real we know it’s fake, and when we should know what’s going on we don’t. I can chalk some of it up to the dark and somewhat aurally muddled cable transfer and my admittedly lousy ability to understand thick accents (it’s a British film), but it still seems like there are some unanswered questions (such as where the hell that priest came from).
In short, of all of the horror movies that air on premium cable in the middle of the night that I’ve never heard of, it’s one of the best. Take that, The Devil’s Ground!
What say you?