Thursday, September 6, 2012

Splintered (2010)

Written by: Stephen Trimingham, Simeon Halligan
Directed by: Simeon Halligan
Starring: Stephen Walters, Holly Weston, Sacha Dawan

What do you get when you take elements of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Halloween, and The Howling, puree them, filter them through that obnoxious green filter used on about 90% of horror movies that have come out since Saw, and dump them in the woods of Wales? Well, a bit of a disappointment, really.

I've noticed sort of an odd trend in Western European horror flicks from the last five or ten years. Certainly it doesn't apply to them all, but enough to make me take notice. Some of them will be very vague in their synopsis, making you think they're of the more psychological vein and that the threat will be a human one of some sort, only to wind up being a flat-out, ass-kicking monster movie like Wild Country (or at least a decent monster movie, like Primordial, which spends most of its time setting up a rage zombie attack and then it turns out it's actually about giant prehistoric rape worms!). Other movies seem to go out of their way to make you think they're about a monster (hell, this one even has scenes with a monster, which we only find out later is a hallucination), only to bum you out by having it be about a run-of-the-mill psycho killer instead. As you might imagine, being teased with hot monster action only to get a boring slasher instead rather irks me, so even if a movie is good up to the point of the reveal, having that rug yanked out from under me pretty much destroys any good will the movie has accumulated up til then.

Sophie is a troubled girl, plagued with haunting images of some snarling, unseen creature dragging her out from beneath her bed whens she was a little girl. Obviously she somehow survived the attack, but the fear has left her a social cripple and she can't get on with her life until she tracks down the creature that attacked her and faces it once and for all. She thinks her chance may have come when reports of strange animal attacks in rural Wales start showing up in the news, so she rounds up a few friends and off into the woods they go, hunting for monsters.

Wait a minute, I hear you say. I thought Sophie was a social cripple? Well, yes, she is. I should say, she rounds up her one friend, and a bunch of other people who are attached to that friend in one way or another come along for the ride. Jane is the one person who has ever given Sophie any kind of positive relationship in her life. Along for the ride are Dean, Jane's dorky brother (who, to the movie's credit, is obsessed with filming everything with his digital camera but we don't have to see one single stupid frame of found footage); Sam, Jane's super-douche jock boyfriend; and John, a friend of Sam's who is only there for a chance to get into Sophie's pants, because damaged chicks who wear dark makeup are all sluts, right?

Anyway, after the requisite “sitting around the campfire talking about local legends” scene, Sophie gets into an argument with Sam when she reveals the creature she wants them to help her find has been killing people (at least the asshole has a reason to be an asshole in this scene – if someone asked me to help them hunt fairies and then told me once we were in the backside of nowhere that the fairies mauled people to death, I wouldn't be very pleased either). She runs off, and John goes to console her with his penis, but before he convinces her that a deeply unsatisfying fuck in some poison ivy is what she needs, Sophie sees something duck through some brush and runs off after it. John follows, and they wind up at a dilapidated dormitory building of some kind. Sophie is sure she saw whatever they were chasing run inside, and since this looks like the sort of place farmer-eating monsters would live, they go right inside without so much as looking around for a sharp stick to protect themselves.

John is the first to pay the price for Sophie's curiosity, and shortly after he meets a sticky-sounding end in a dark room, Sophie is knocked unconscious. She wakes up in one of the dingy dorm rooms, and speaks briefly to the owner of a pair of eyes we see staring through a slot in the door. The twitchy bastard tries to convince Sophie he locked her in that room to protect her from someone, then slams the slot shut and leaves her. Sam shows up to help, but an unseen something that snarls like an animal drags him away, and it's clear to Sophie the only way she's getting out of here is if she does it herself. She'd better hurry, though, because whatever Twitchy Guy locked her in there to protect her from is outside again, and it's not going away without a snack.

There are some really effective scenes in this movie. Up until the reveal of the rather disappointing villain, it's tense and scary, and even several characters-do-stupid-things-because-the-script-said-so moments can't ruin that. Especially since we're led to believe, through flash cuts of fangs and hairy, dagger-clawed paws, that this is going to be another excellent werewolf flick from the part of the world that knows werewolves better than anyone. And then Trimingham and Halligan whiz all that down their legs when we discover what we have been suspecting but seriously hoping wasn't going to be the case: that Sophie's “werewolf” was in fact her mind's way of dealing with her pedophile father dragging her out from under the bed to rape her, and that the grunting, snarling monster killing off her friends is actually a feral orphan, all grown up and looking like the love child of Gollum and Ernest T. Bass from The Andy Griffith Show. Twitchy Guy is his twin, who escaped being locked in the dog pen like his brother by sucking up to the priest who ran the orphanage. And the assistant priest, who has lived these decades with the guilt of not stepping in to save the child, has now gone all Dr. Loomis and is hunting him, but that barely matters as he's just there to deliver some exposition and die. Too bad, because he would have been a much more interesting character to base the movie around instead of a sexually abused girl whose childhood rape is nothing more than a red herring to trick us into thinking we're watching a werewolf movie! It's like they made a monster flick, and then taped over the last half hour of it with an episode of Law and Order: SVU.

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