Admittedly, my expectations when it comes to modern independent horror are pretty limited. For the most part, films go for cheese and splatter with loads of lame humor. I called these films lazy in a recent review, as they trade genuine suspense for a quick chuckle every time. Making an intentionally bad movie must be much easier than attempting something that genuinely draws the audience in. So when I checked out Toby Wilkins' "Splinter" on a lark, I was pleasantly surprised. "Splinter" is a taut, fast-paced and nasty little thriller that works as solid entertainment.
A jolty, kinetic little creature feature--the tone and pacing of "Splinter" recalls other (perhaps more sophisticated films) with its quick and jagged editing, but it works well here. The creature in question is a spiky parasite that kills its prey and then uses the bodies to maneuver around in a grisly spectacle of attack. It's an interesting and unsettling visual to see the carcasses bent, broken, altered, and taken over. The violence and settings are played for "real," with characters you come to know and respect. That, to me, was the real selling point of "Splinter." It set up character types at the beginning, but through nice performances and an attention to dialogue in the script--these individuals break through as real protagonists that you want to see succeed.
This genuine respect for the characters (and thankfully, they're not just idiots) is what brings the suspense to life. The film is short, brutal, sometimes unexpected and it works brilliantly on its own terms. In a world where independent horror can be painful--I felt that this little film was a nice diversion. I may not remember the film several months down the line, but I enjoyed the nasty ride now. With reasonable expectations, "Splinter" just might surprise you too. KGHarris, 11/08.