When you start digging way deep into the ground, you never know what’s going to come up.
Usually this is the case at those weird research facilities nestled back in that secluded acreage that the online overhead map view shows to be undeveloped natural land. Could be the government, the military or just your run-of-the-mill uber-corporate entity that figures some money’ll be made from whatever it is they’re working on that requires a big hole in the ground.
That is, if they knew what they were doing.
Most of the time they don’t. Because a good drive-in flick story is when the fail-safe procedures fail, and the resulting unsafe conditions that happen for the characters stuck in the ensuing snafu.
2008’s Splinter proves to be no exception.
Not to be confused with Splice, Split, Sliver or Stick It, which have to do with genetics, multiple personalities, voyeuristic tapes and gymnastics, respectively, some kind of breach lets something out in the woods that is in equal parts peeved and prickly.
Whether the monster in Splinter is the science-run-amok result of some kind of weapon research (a la Piranha), what happens when a bunch of scientists fart around with creature DNA in a lab against all semblance of common sense (a la 1982’s Forbidden World, formerly known as Mutant) or your standard shape-shifting alien looking to stop the world and melt with you (a la John Carpenter’s The Thing, also 1982) wasn’t really too clear. I’m not faulting the screenwriters for that, though, because it just might have been that I wasn’t paying good enough attention since I didn’t want my microwave popcorn to burn and I stepped away from the flick for a second.
In my decades of experience, I’ve figured out that with microwave popcorn, you have to add 30 seconds to the popcorn timer but then stop it with about 17 left to maximize poppage, minimize nonpoppage and prevent scorching. That’s only for a home microwave that you have a long and established relationship with.
NEVER do popcorn in the office with an unfamiliar microwave, else you run the risk of unleashing an airborne toxic event of burned kernels on the entirety of the lunchroom and perhaps, far, far beyond, so you might as well just get to updating your online resume.
And if you need another reason, don’t forget about the shards from the kernels that can preoccupy you from whatever document you’re working on and lead to the need for makeshift medical maneuvers requiring a straightened staple or paper clip, a paper towel from the employee restroom and a can of clear soda from the office vending machine for potential antiseptic properties.
What I am saying is that the one certain thing about the creature’s origins in Splinter is that its first appearance is as a porcupine-wolverine amalgamation and not a splinter from a popcorn kernel attacking a middle manager’s gumline, and to borrow one of the quotable lines spoken by everybody’s favorite dog handler Clark in The Thing, “whatever it is, it’s weird and pissed off.”
See, it all mashes together at some point.
And that’s what the monster does in Splinter, absorbing people and mushing them together while leaving behind spiky things that flatten tires and infect others. The arithmetic is pretty easy to follow. After one gas station employee runs afoul of the monster for the customary opening scene-setting character dispatch, two people on a romantic camping getaway run afoul of a criminal and his junkie girlfriend and get carjacked.
They get a flat from one of the creature’s quills, head to the gas station and then the usual “you better step up because nobody’s coming to save you” siege against the monster(s) happens along with the ominous ticking clock of one of the party being devoured by the infection he got from one of the splinters.
Best Way to Get Infected: Somebody doesn’t watch what they’re doing when fixing a flat.
Best Engineering: Duct tape and plastic piping allow for the trapped people to get a police radio.
Best Hiding Spot that Advances the Plot: When the group retreats to the gas station cooler and discovers that the monster can’t see them.
Best Durability: Seth proves himself to be pretty cold-hardy when it comes down to it.
Best Parasitic Organism Disposal Method: Fry em with fire!
Good creature, great glopola and some decent Re-Animator-type organic meldings of various appendages that anyone over age 2 who’s looked at a human anatomy book would knows aren’t supposed to happen.
Three and a half stars.