Splinter (2008)

OCTOBER 15, 2008


After a strong start, Screamfest has been middling at best until today, when we finally got a movie that delivered big thrills on an independent budget. Splinter is not a perfect film, but it’s fast paced and fun, which is more than I can say about the movies for the last couple days (Keepsake, anyone?). And I say this after damn near arrestable offenses in screening time etiquette.

I have no children, a daytime job (one I don’t really take seriously anyway), and my only nighttime obligation is to try to keep a decent K/D ratio on Halo 3. But that’s me. What about the other 270 people in the theater who bought a ticket for a 7 pm film that didn’t start until almost 9 o’ clock? Festival delays are hardly uncommon, but tossing the longest “short film” ever made (with its own Q&A to boot) into the mix is pretty shitty. Then there were technical delays, an intermission... come on now. I suspect it was a joint conspiracy between the theater, the parking garage, and Lucky Strike, who was holding the after party, to keep us there as long as possible. Less free beer, more parking fees. Suns of bitches!

But all was forgiven as the movie unraveled. It didn’t have the most original setup in the world: a vacationing couple is held hostage by escaped convicts, but then they have to band together against a common enemy, holed up in a single location. But director Toby Wilkins (who also co-wrote) knows how to play against expectations, and therein lies the secret of the film’s success. For example, one of the “bad guys” is clearly not so bad; she doesn’t want to hurt anyone, tells the more insane-seeming partner to calm down, etc. Clearly she will end up being an ally! Nope, she gets it first, and pretty early on to boot. And that’s just the start. Nothing’s Shakespeare, but I was continually surprised as to who sides with who, who plays hero, who shows his/her true colors, etc.

And that’s good, because it distracted me from getting annoyed at the camerawork during the monster scenes. The monster is pretty original and awesome, but you never really get a good look at it, because Wilkins, DP Nelson Cragg, and editor David Michael Maurer never let you. The camera is always jerking around, the cuts would give Michael Bay a headache, and everything is in closeup to boot. They claim that only 1% of it is CGI, so why they don’t show off their work is unknown to me. Like any good film of this type, they have other things to worry about besides the monster, which allows the film to have a great amount of suspenseful bits that aren’t soiled by the frenetic camerawork (which is relegated solely to the monster attacks), but it’s still a bummer.

It also looked great. It was shot on the HD something or other (I always like how the directors say exactly what camera. I wish I had something to get that specific about for what I do for a living. “Yeah I use the News Gothic font!”), and transferred to film. The image is vivid, and despite being shot almost entirely at night, everything is in focus and visible. Again, after a week’s worth of washed out DV films and/or DVD projections, it’s nice to see someone take pride in their film and put effort into giving it the best presentation possible.

Magnet is giving the film a small release; if you can, please check it out on the big screen. I miss having straight up monster movies without gimmicks (Cloverfield), and while I know damn well that the film won’t give Jaws a run for its money, I would like to know that I’m not the only one with an interest in such things.

What say you?


  1. Fun! good to know!

    i saw the trailer and wasnt quite sure if i would enjoy it or not.
    Fun always works.

  2. i think it looks pretty cool having seen the posters and stills
    ...though i've given up watching trailers, since so often they make bad movies look good (even though i have a really high crap tolerance level...i don't want to go into something with high expectations and be dissapointed when it SUCKS)

    i'll defenitely check it out...but unfortunately limited releases almost NEVER come near me!

  3. I loved this. It took many things we've seen before -- the siege, the hostage drama, the monster attacks, the city-versus-the-country attitude --but went in an interesting direction with them all, which was wonderful. The monster is well-done and a great idea and the actors are all excellent. This is on my top 10 for the year, for sure. It's like FEAST with no jokes and no winking. Awesome.

    I did not love the shakycam moments every time the creature attacked -- I can't believe that's a fad that has really taken hold -- and I likewise didn't like the fact that of our three leads, one of them is an expert in the perfect field to figure the monster out and (maybe) beat it. (It would be like if Laurie Strode had a PhD. in How To Destroy Evil). If you have to make someone an expert in the perfect field that will service your plot, I'd much rather see that guy be wrong all the time.

    But these are minor quibbles, really. I love that the movie is short and sweet, that we actually like every character in the film, that nobody does anything stupid to endanger themselves or anyone else, and I love the smart way one aborted escape plan backfires to potentially really hose these guys. This movie is excellent.

  4. I had started this a while back after finding it on the internet... But after seeing the first 15 minutes or so I decided that I should save it for a proper viewing.

    I am glad I did. This movie went beyond my expectations. Great monster, good pacing and a running time of under one hour and twenty minutes. No filler.

    If anyone hasn't seen this, they really should.

  5. I thought it was good but the annoying stereotype characters (dorky guy with hot tough girlfriend and criminal who's really good at heart) along with the shaky cam ruined this for me. Not to mention some really bad logic and rationalizations from the dorky guy about the monster and his method for escaping from the gas station. The monster was really cool though, I didn't mind never getting a good look at it, what I saw was gruesome and could easily make an apperance in my nightmares because I saw enough to freak me out without filling in the details. I just felt the cool monster was wasted on a bland story and overused character stereotypes.

  6. Love this movie! Hope a sequel will be made?


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