Posted October 30, 2008 in Film

Four desperate victims try to make sense of—and survive—a corpse-inhabiting creature that looks like a satanic porcupine in Toby Wilkins’ perfectly executed genre flick. Instead of a romantic camping trip, Polly (Jill Wagner) and Seth (Paulo Costanzo) are kidnapped by a felon Dennis (Shea Whigham) and his tweaked-out girlfriend Lacey (Rachel Kerbs) and marooned at a rural Oklahoman gas station that becomes their last stand against a monster that feels no pain. The gore in Splinter runs thick and black, and the kills are edited like a chopped salad. But the hushed intervals between the attacks are agonizing, especially because the cast is so small and the relationships so well-defined. Dennis slaps Polly for being too strong, and sneers at Seth for being all brains when everyone else (including Polly) values brawn. When screenwriters Kai Barry, Ian Shorr, and Wilkins make the unlikely team lean on each other for survival, their bond feels earned. Predictable but never boring, Wilkins’ satisfying popcorn flick achieves more moral and terrifying tension than the latest Saw could even with endless speechifying and buckets of blood—once we’re done sniggering at a beast that acts like a rabid hedgehog. (Amy Nicholson)


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