Directed by Toby Wilkins
"It will get under your skin . . ."
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.