BluRay/DVD Reviews

SPLINTER

By • Apr 17th, 2009 •

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82 minutes was the running time of Universal’s REVENGE OF THE CREATURE in 1955. I saw that at just the right age (eleven) in my film-going life, and it remained my favorite horror film for many years. So passionate was I about it that I resolved to make all my films 82 minutes long. Imagine my curiosity when SPLINTER arrived on DVD, its running time listed as 82 minutes. It’s been a good fifty years since I fixated on that magic number, but still I was cautiously predisposed to enjoy it.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

Though given only a limited release on Halloween, ’08, it is one of the best horror flicks of the year, ranking with PLAGUE TOWN, CLOVERFIELD, BLINDNESS, FUNNY GAMES, INSIDE, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, RED, STUCK, and THE STRANGERS.

Shea Whigham bears a physical resemblance and an emotional range similar to Scottish actor Robert Carlyle (and to my friend and former manager, Josh Silver – well, the physical resemblance at least). His threatening presence and the arc it undergoes when his goals are compromised by the arrival of the creatures, is the shining badge of individuality this film displays. Support from Paulo Costanzo and Jill Wagner is solid as well. Having recently rewatched Vincente Minnelli’s THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE, a quintessential example of how rotten casting can destroy a film, I was all the more impressed by the intelligent choice of these actors.

The plot is either a regurgitation or a nod, depending on how you are predisposed. It’s THE BLOB with spines, or it’s the barricaded hapless protagonists vs the monsters of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, FIEND WITHOUT A FACE, THE BIRDS, and countless other classic horror shockers. And these aspects are handled admirably – though I found the editing a bit too frantic (while at the same time understanding how the cutting energized the narrative). But the lasting power of the film is clearly in its characterizations, in the character arcs, in the reality of the characters, in the democratic interplay between the director and his cast, as revealed in the commentary track. It’s serious Brit filmmaker Toby Wilkins’ first feature, though he’s done a lot of shorts, including some for Sam Raimi, and much of his work can be accessed and enjoyed on the Internet.

And while we’re discussing a Magnolia horror release, it should be noted that they are scoring big this year with horror on DVD. The above mentioned LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is one of their recent releases, as is Edward Anderson’s SHUTTLE, a harrowing horror-abduction tale which is also distinguished by good acting all around, strong twists, and a particularly powerful ending. Two girls coming back from vacation, and two guys trying to pick them up at the airport, end up taking the cheapest late-hour shuttle available, and pay the price for their pecuniary decision. Co-incidentally, both SHUTTLE and SPLINTER have upsetting first act sequences involving the changing of a tire.

And LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, something of a cult phenomenon by now, is a unique Swedish vampire film, rightly called a fairy tale by Guillermo del Toro, with some serious inner logic problems, but with far more satisfactory and inventive turns on the vampire genre. I’m told that the Swedish government gets involved financially if a film is being done about children, and I wonder if that helped propel this one along. It’s about kids, but it ain’t no Shirley Temple romp, if you know what I mean.

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