EmptyOpens: Friday, Oct. 31 (Magnet Releasing)
Whenever a romantic couple in a movie goes camping in the remote woods, you just know it's a bad idea.
In "Splinter," first the tent collapses. Then two crazed criminals kidnap the couple. Finally, a parasitic, blood-sucking monster attacks. Gosh, enjoying the great outdoors is getting harder and harder. "Splinter" is a bad idea, borrowing body parts, as it were, from old horror flicks to genuinely unsatisfying results. The filmmakers claim "Splinter" is a homage to classic creature features of the '70s and '80s. Which is all you can say when you lack original ideas. "Splinter" will scare up a bit of boxoffice at Halloween but should disappear without a trace shortly thereafter.
The script by Kai Barry, Ian Shorr and debuting feature director Toby Wilkins sets up its situation with many telegraphed punches. A creature devours the operator of a gas station-convenience store on a remote road. Bet this must be the luckless couple's ultimate destination. The couple's easy-to-assemble tent won't cooperate, so Seth (Paulo Costanzo) and Polly (Jill Wagner) search for a motel. In the same woods, a car dies, which contains escaped convict Dennis (Shea Whigham) and his junkie girlfriend, Lacey (Rachel Kerbs). Bet these two couples will meet soon.
The couple on the run kidnaps the couple looking for adventure along with their car. Dennis throws away Polly's mobile phone. Bet he'll be sorry about that later. The car runs over something weird in the dark road. In changing the flat tire, Dennis' finger is pricked by the creature's spikes caught in the tire. Bet that's going to be important.
The foursome descend on the gas station. The creature again attacks, turning the junkie girlfriend into a mass of broken, torn flesh that now becomes a creature too. The other three are trapped inside the locked convenience store with two creatures and various torn limbs seeking their living blood. Would you believe Dennis destroys the only phone in the store too? This guy doesn't deserve to live. Bet he won't.
The film now stagnates into a waiting game. You wait for the trapped victims' various schemes to fail so the siege -- and the movie -- can continue. You wait for that finger prick to start turning Dennis into a zombie. And you wait for the biologist Seth to figure out how to outfox the creatures.
Even so, Wilkins manages to flub the film's "money shots," reducing the creature attacks to blurry, close shots and quick cuts of flesh and bone tearing. The result -- mangled corpses that are now insatiable creatures themselves -- is more risible than horrific. The sight of a severed hand scuttling along the floor searching for "food" is pure camp.
What is this creature? Where does it come from? What explains its behavior and appetites? There is a sign along the road at one point warning about an experimental zone nearby. Must be a place where they mix together old horror movies.
Production: ContentFilm International and Magnet Releasing with Indion Entertainment Group & Kish Prods.
Cast: Shea Whigham, Paulo Costanzo, Jill Wagner, Rachel Kerbs, Charles Baker, Laurel Whitsett.
Director: Toby Wilkins.
Screenwriters: Toby Wilkins, Kai Barry, Ian Shorr. Producers: Kai Barry, Ted Kroeber.
Executive producers: Graham Begg, Chad Burris, Jamie Carmichael, Mark Cuban, Todd Wagner.
Director of photography: Nelson Cragg.
Production designer: Jennifer Spence.
Music: Elia Cmiral.
Editor: David Michael Maurer.
Rated R, 82 minutes.