Thursday, April 16, 2009


Directed by Toby Wilkins

"It will get under your skin . . ."

Relatively unknown director Toby Wilkins (Grudge 3, 2009) comes through with one of the most unexpected horror films of 2009. Splinter is an indie from under the Magnet umbrella. The tagline "It will get under your skin" describes the movie perfectly - this is one of the few horror films that keeps you literally on the edge of your seat for the entire ride . . . .

After a gas station attendant is attacked by a mysterious rabid animal from the woods, shedding blood while the intro credits are still rolling, the story begins in traditional horror fashion -- a young couple is on their way into the woods for a campout when they spot a hitch hiker. The hitch hiker girl looks pale and disturbed, and when the couple pulls over a man approaches the car armed with a pistol. The couple become "hostages," and we are given little info about the stranded couple other than the fact that the girl Lacey (played by Rachel Kerbs) is a junkie going through heavy withdrawals and looking for her dog, Ginger. Her boyfriend/gunman, Dennis, played by Shea Wigham, instructs the couple to drive.

Further down the road they run over something and of course, get a flat. Dennis gets a splinter when trying to remove the tire. When they investigate the pile of remains in the road, the guts begin to crawl and reach out for them. Freaked out by this, the 4 speed off after fixing the tire, only to overheat and pull over at a roadside gas station in the middle of nowhere. The gas station seems abandoned, but when Lacey tries to take a piss she finds a mutilated man (still alive) writhing around the bathroom floor asking her to kill him. His limbs contort and we hear bones snapping, a gruesome look at what is left of the station attendant from the opening credits.

The man's body leaves the bathroom and attacks our main characters, leaving Lacey in a pool of blood and then falls lifeless onto the hood of the car. The remaining 3 lock themselves inside the station, watching Lacey's body and what's left of the man from the surveillance cameras. Dennis tries to rescue Lacey, who appears to still be alive, but her body has been taken over by the parasite, her fingers and hands bloody and curling. He retreats back into the station, and we watch Lacey's body slam itself against the shop windows with heavy thuds, leaving blood splattered trails all over the glass. Body parts detach and make their way into the shop, which we later find out is because they are attracted to heat from the humans.

The 3 retreat to the back of the store looking for an escape, when a police officer arrives. Lacey's body, now fully overtaken by the parasite, jumps from the roof and pulls the cop apart in a brutal death scene outside the shop window. After some time to think, the 3 realize that the freezer is the safest place to hide. When Dennis's arm starts to contort from the splinter, we are treated to a disturbing scene where they cut off his arm with a razorknife and smash it with a cinder block to break the bone and prevent the parasite from spreading into the rest of his body. Our main character, Seth (played by Paulo Costanzo), is a biologist and concludes that the parasite is attracted to heat, which is why the cold freezer is their only hope. He decides to cover himself in ice and drop his body temp, making him practically invisible to the parasite outside so he can make a getaway to the police car out front. His girlfriend Polly (played by Jill Wagner) and Dennis distract the parasite by throwing fireworks out the back door. Eventually Seth makes it to the cop car, grabs a shotgun, rescues Polly, and the gas station gets blown to bits.

Splinter is a thrill ride from start to finish, with one of the most creative monsters I've seen in awhile. The twitchy movements of the humans taken over by the Splinter are terrifying, and we never get a full-on steady view of the twisted bodies, leaving alot to the imagination. Watching the severed body parts regenerate is a highlight of the film, and it is powerful in its simplicity, much like the below review for Eden Lake -- the setting is common and simple, and the gore effects are excellent, all done on a low budget. The entire film takes place over the course of one night trapped in the gas station. Normally I would want more variety from a film, but the plot is so intense we can easily forgive the setting. The original concept and underlying theme of helplessness make this movie standout from other "infection" films of its time.

Click link below for the Splinter website, full of really cool extras:

Sunday, April 12, 2009


EDEN LAKE (2008)

Our story begins with a young couple (Jenny & Steve) looking for some peace and quiet in the gated community of Eden Lake, in the middle of the woods somewhere outside London. An innocent attempt at getting some sun is quickly interrupted by a group of rowdy locals on the beach. As darkness approaches, the couple sets up camp and hears screams coming from the woods. Camera angles from inside the woods give the impression that the two are being watched. The following morning they awake to their tires slashed and their car is later stolen by the locals. They encounter the group and an altercation ensues; Steve accidentally stabbing their dog during the struggle. The gang ties Steve to a post with barbed wire in the middle of the woods and torture him -- slashing his arms, back and neck with a hunting knife while taking photos with his camera phone. The two escape, but Steve is badly injured, and the couple retreats to a nearby cabin to treat his wounds. Some great skin effects here - the knife wounds are deep and bleeding black blood.

Jenny leaves Steve hidden in safety and flees through the woods to look for help. On her way she steps on a sharp metal spike, which goes straight through her foot and she pulls it out herself - you can feel her pain when you watch this. Shortly after she is captured and tied to a post with Steve, surrounded by firewood and set ablaze by the kids, camera phone rolling. The kids are sickened by the smell of burning flesh, which gives Jenny a window to escape and Steve is left to burn. She then stumbles upon a local map of the campsites and when the kids arrive she takes cover in a dumpster full of what appears to be feces (a disturbing moment in the film - we truly feel Jenny's helplessness). One of the kids emerges from the woods and Jenny stabs him in the throat with a shard of broken glass. rocking him back and forth like a baby while he bleeds out, a truly shocking scene because we know she did not want to kill him but was taken over with rage by the death of her fiance. Darkness falls again, and the kids begin to turn on each other. Jenny escapes again to a nearby road, where she is "rescued" by the brother of one of the gang members. She steals his car and speeds off down the road, mowing down a little girl from the gang in a revenge scene reminscent of the end of Hostel. Jenny crashes the car at a local backyard party, which of course happens to be thrown by the parents & family of the gang. They quickly learn that Jenny ran over their daughter, and take matters into their own hands. We don't know what becomes of Jenny, but we can only imagine the worst.

This is one of the few horror films that does not have a happy ending -- evil wins. Shot mostly in the forest, with very little budget thrown into high priced special effects and focusing more on the terror of being hunted, the film succeeds in creating a realistic story that could happen to anyone. Unlike most horror films where an innocent weekend getaway turns into a nighmare by the hands of a serial killer, the victims in Eden Lake meet their doom by a group of children. The film is brutal and challenges us to consider if this could really have happened. The story is powerful in its simplicity, and while not scary in the least, the overwhelming emotion of being hunted/destined to fail is the real terror.

Sunday, April 5, 2009



2009 is off to a great start for horror film fanatics - Friday the 13th, My Bloody Valentine, The Last House on the Left, etc., and now last week's release of The Haunting in Connecticut (I'm not even considering movies like The Unborn and The Uninvited, mainly because that is just not the kind of horror I care to see). At this rate 2009 is shaping up to be a good year for us . . .

I have to admit, Haunting looked really promising when I saw the trailer. Anything "based on a true story" prompts me to do some research online, find out the real story that sparked Hollywood's interest, and then see how the director works off this story. Unfortunately in this case, it is rumored that most of the "true story" just doesn't add up. It seems the only real parallel between the film and reality is that the family did in fact discover mortuary equipment in the house, which is in my opinion, a creepy enough foundation for a story. Needless to say I went into the theatre with low expectations.

I'm not going to bore you with the details around the plot mainly because it just wasn't all that interesting. A young boy (Matt) plagued with a painful cancer is relocated with his family to CT to attend a better hospital with experienced doctors there to treat his condition. He participates in a special study once there, and his father works multiple jobs to keep money coming in, taking road trips to visit the family on his off-time. The lack of a father figure is supposed to create a feeling of helplessness. There is "something strange about the house" as soon as the family visits it, and of course the rent seems oddly cheap for such an old house of its size. A strange presence is felt right away, there's a mysterious door in the basement that won't open, Matt begins having hallucinations and seeing ghosts, the rest of the family thinks it's the medicine, Matt meets a priest who knows the story behind the house, family does some research to learn the house's history, the haunting becomes stronger and begins to attack the whole family, they stay in the house (of course), the priest "cleanses" the house, then Matt saves the day by burning it down and destroying the corpses that are buried in the walls. There you go - I just saved you ten bucks . . .

The movie does very little to think outside the box - much of what you see has already been done. The influences are glaring -- think The Amityville Horror meets Poltergeist with a taste of The Exorcist, but not nearly as well-done as these three classics. There are some cool elements, such as the dead bodies engraved with letters and symbols (we never are told why) and the ectoplasm coming from the mouth of the medium during a seance scene. But the majority of the film relies on quick scares and Matt's hallucinations, and unfortunately that just doesn't dive deep enough for me. After awhile I found myself wanting to see the horror, not just in Matt's mind, but right there in the house and on the screen in front of us. A figure standing in the reflection of the mirror and a rotten corpse appearing in the room and then disappearing moments later is just not enough for me these days, but its a quick scare tactic that makes money. I have to admit, I jumped a whole bunch of times during the film, but there's so much more to the genre than that. A true horror film tells a disturbing story and leaves you with a feeling of unrest and discomfort in your own skin -- The Haunting in Connecticut is entertaining, but does very little to break new ground.

People magazine did a story with Carmen Reed, the real-life mother (played by Virginia Madsen), who describes the paranormal activity here:,,20270145,00.html