'Splinter': Pinned Down, By Kurt Loder

A horror film unlike any other. Lately, anyway.

"Splinter" is a horror flick so trashy, so totally drive-in, that you'd expect a few cans of beer and a couple of joints to be included in the price of admission. Two vacationing lovebirds, Seth and Polly (Paulo Costanzo and Jill Wagner), get hijacked in their van by a gun-wielding escaped convict named Farell (Shea Whigham) and his junkie sweetheart, Lacey (Rachel Kerbs). When they all pull into a lonely gas station, they quickly learn that the attendant has been attacked by a bloodthirsty, spine-covered ... I dunno, thing of some sort, which has in turn converted him into a bloodthirsty, spine-covered zombie. "What next?" is not a question that will occur to you at this point.

Lacey soon gets gobbled by a spine monster, and her severed hand — all spiny now itself — takes on an evil life of its own and starts chasing the three spine-free survivors around the convenience store inside the station. Farell has been firing off shots through all this, prompting Polly — still intent on escaping his clutches — to whisper, "He's out of bullets." To which Seth replies, "What if he has more bullets?"

Seth, who amazingly possesses a Ph.D. in biology, fulfills the age-old monster-movie function of being professionally fascinated by something he should be flattening with a rock. "This is new," he says. "I've never seen anything like this." We wish we could say the same.

A cop arrives on the scene intent on arresting the famously wanted Farell, but she gets chewed in two before she can even get her cuffs out. Farell has mixed feelings about this. As the felled cop starts sprouting spines, he says, "Help can't even help us." At this point, Seth has a bright idea. He tries to explain it to Polly — unsuccessfully. "What're you saying?" she asks. Seth thinks for a second and says, "I don't know."

Some deeply unusual moments follow. Stalked by spiny, severed hands scuttling across the floor, Seth starts throwing rolls of paper towels at them. Bags of ice cubes are brought into play, and then firecrackers (please don't ask). And when it's discovered that Farell's arm has been infected by a rogue spine, Seth steps in to amputate it with a box cutter. ("Ooh!" says Polly.)

Considering this movie in retrospect, in all of its cheesy, no-budget splendor, I recalled Farell at one point looking down at an immobilized spine-thingy and mumbling, "It ain't thinkin'." Staggering away from the picture, you might wonder, "Who was?"

Don't miss Kurt Loder's reviews of "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," "Let the Right One In" and "Decampment."

Check out everything we've got on "Splinter."

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