HMM Day 18 – Splinter

What makes a good monster movie? There are so many monster (or creature feature) films out there and it seems that for every one hundred you may get one film that actually rules. I think it must be pretty tough to come up with a monster. The ability to develop some creature that can terrify your audience must be a daunting task of creativity and thought. Even when you think you have come up with something awesome, you can’t help but notice how it in some way rips off something from the past. But so is the way of life and art.

Monsters are a major staple in all horror and there’s nothing better than seeing a monster film that puts you on edge. I would guess the things that make a monster movie so awesome and successful would depend on certain characteristics. A monster needs to be erratic and beyond our understanding. With everything, humans demand an understanding. A clear picture as to the why and the how. What makes something what it is? It’s the entire reason we go to school. The more you know the more you understand. Without a clear picture of what something is and it’s purpose then man do we flip out. Throw that together with an uncontrollable savagery for blood and mayhem that we can’t stop or control. Maybe a few fangs or sharp pointy things to kill us then that makes for a pretty terrifying force.

Whether it is a blood sucking vampire, a wasp woman, a giant radioactive lizard or a child eating clown; monsters dominate our stories and will forever reign supreme. Here is another modern movie that I think serves as a great monster flick and will satisfy anyone’s monster appetite.

Splinter

Splinter is a 2008 monster film directed by Toby Wilkins who also made The Grudge 3. Starring Jill Wagner, Paulo Costanzo and Shea Whigham. It received mostly positive reviews and today holds a seventy percentile rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Synopsis

After boyfriend and girlfriend Polly and Shea are carjacked by two dime-store thief’s. They find themselves stuck at a roadside gas station as an unknown monster preys on anyone in its path. The group must outwit the creature in order to survive.

Splinter may sound like a cliche horror monster film and for the most part that is exactly what it is. It is the eighteenth of October which means if you’re horror hounding for something beyond the same old movies played over and over again on AMC or just need something new. Then Splinter is a good movie that can help fill that void but also surprise you at how awesome it is. It’s a film that is straight and to the point but delivers a simple story in all it’s gory goodness.

What The Hell Is This?

Look at that picture. Can you tell me what kind of monster this is? From what I can tell the creature attacks and kills it’s victims but assimilates the dead matter to make itself grow. So what we have is pretty much a mixture of 1958’s The Blob and John Carpenters The Thing. But the blood of the creature is spiky and uses it’s sharp edges to slice and infect it’s prey. Just like a jellyfish. So yea, a blob like monster that is made up of human parts and has black tar like blood with spikes. Sounds good to me! Actually this thing is pretty awesome.

Before when I asked “what makes a good monster?” Well, Splinter meets all those criteria. The thing is beyond anyone’s understanding which is a common theme to the very end of the film. We don’t know where it came from or if it was made in a lab. The movie maintains a sense of mystery to something so dangerous. Something that creates a good monster. At one point the monster is trying to reach for our victims and an arm is severed. The thing has a hive mind, so the hand although cut off; becomes a threat and reeks havoc within the confines of the gas station.

I actually loved this moment most and it reminded me of the facehugger locked room in 1987’s Aliens. The way the dismembered hand moves is spider like and convoluted. You would think it would walk like Thing from The Addams Family, one finger after another in an almost musical kind of flow… but it doesn’t. Which is a good indication as to the motive of the monster. It doesn’t assimilate a human body and use it like it was intended or hides in secrecy like Body Snatchers or The Thing. It’s a pure predator that doesn’t have logic to its form. A foot isn’t used as a foot and an eye isn’t used for sight. This creates the movements of the monster awkward and creepy. Like seeing a sick animal twisting its way towards you on broken legs.

Our Characters

But as much as the monster in Splinter works, it can only be as successful as the characters. You know why modern B-rated monster movies suck? Because the characters suck… but not Splinter. I absolutely love the acting by our trio Wagner, Costanzo and Whigham. They’re thrown into a situation where survival is key and must be done with a certain uneasy amount of teamwork. Like many monster films, it does require our survivors to use their intellect to solve the problem. Making it a typical and well made man vs nature kind of scenario.

Poor Dennis

As Polly and Shea begin as our protagonists that we route for, we can’t help but attract to our low life thief Dennis. Not only does this guy go through one of the best scenes of the film, but his character is surprisingly the hero that pushes the story along. Where many monster films have that character you want to see “bite the bullet.” I couldn’t help but wish Dennis would get away. Obviously, it’s a clear message that no matter what kind of life you have lived, there is always room for redemption.

So go ahead and get your monster cravings settled with 2008’s Splinter. The film is an enjoyable monster flick set in a claustrophobic atmosphere. It doesn’t take itself all too seriously but never crosses over the line of hokey or schlock. The effects are awesome and don’t seem to appear overly campy or fake. Many moments are terrifying and the gore is legit for those that desire the splatter and run of mass amounts of blood. I must say there is one extreme arm amputation scene that will make you cringe with delight. That is why I recommend Splinter for day eighteen of Horror Movie Marathon!.

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