Oh, this was a fun retro (yes, 2008 is retro) film. Splinter is fantastically paced, with an engaging trio of actors in a confined location and some inventive, almost humorous splatter, neatly wrapped up in less than 90 minutes. Think Evil Dead meets The Mist.
The plot: a not-annoying couple [rare in this genre] on a camping anniversary trip realise that camping is rubbish and drive off to look for a motel. Unfortunately, they’re carjacked by a couple on the lam making their way to Mexico. Now on the worst double date ever, they accidentally murder some wildlife stop to inspect as it messed up one of the tyres, and are then spiked by said roadkill. Shrugging it off as the last throes of probably a dying porcupine, the quartet stop at a gas station, where the criminal chick is taken over by said spikes. What ensues is some wonderful exercises in body horror: the spiny parasite does not give a single shit about what your body can or can’t do: if it can get into a building to get that sweet, sweet human meat it will bend its host’s body backwards and into itself until you’ll never look at your cat’s auditions for Cirque du Soleil again. Nothing is scarier than an undead contortionist with spikes. Kudos to director Toby Wilkins, former SFX artist who still clearly loves his old job.
I’ve decided not to edit that last paragraph. This movie is well-paced once the action gets going, but the three main leads are interesting enough to keep things going, although Bad Guy is the only one who gets much character exploration. Most of the film’s brisk runtime is spent on showing people in peril not doing stupid things: fashioning tools, being mindful of open windows/doors, arming themselves, and thinking on their feet. They’re characters you can root for, which makes a movie like this bear up for repeat upon repeat viewings.
It’s far from perfect, but Splinter’s brand of messy body horror and economic storytelling makes for an enjoyable inclusion for any October marathon.