Splinter (Blu-ray) (2008)

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Released 8-Sep-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Wizard : Special FX Featurete (1:09)
Featurette-Splinter Pumpkin (2:09) - a Halloween novelty.
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Construction : The Creation of the Gas Station (1:53)
Featurette-Making Of-Weather - Lots of It! (1:56)
Featurette-Making Of-Shooting Digitally (2:23)
Featurette-Making Of-Make-up and Creature Tests (4:06)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-HDNet - A Look at Splinter (4:34)
Featurette-Making Of-Conceptual Art Gallery (1:26)
Audio Commentary-Feature Length : Director and Cast
Audio Commentary-Feature Length : Director and Crew
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 82:15
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Toby Wilkins
Studio
Distributor
ContentFilm
Icon Entertainment
Starring Shea Whigham
Paulo Costanzo
Jill Wagner
Rachel Kerbs
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Elia Cmiral


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (1920Kb/s)
English Linear PCM 48/24 2.0
English Audio Commentary Linear PCM 48/24 2.0
English Audio Commentary Linear PCM 48/24 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Includes the first attack.

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Plot Synopsis

    Here is terrific news for lovers of horror films. An upcoming Icon release on Blu-ray is the independent film, Splinter, which is a totally refreshing throwback to the great horror movies of the past. In today's terminology "horror" seems to have come to mean "slash and gore", whereas in my far-off youth a horror film was designed to make the audience "shiver, shudder and shake" - that's how the Friday night fright night horror double bills were promoted. Here we have a brand new film that gave me more genuine moments of horror than any other in recent memory - and for the goremongers, that's there as well.

   In a stunningly immediate opening an attendant at a remote, isolated gas station (Charles Baker) settles in a folding chair to enjoy the morning sunshine and a mini-packet of Cape Cod Potato Chips. (The detailed glories of Blu-ray! Also, don't miss the inscription on his cap!) He is attracted by a noise in the bushes and goes to investigate. He is instantly attacked and "consumed" by whatever was lurking in the greenery. Motoring along the highway we meet a young couple in their SUV, off to celebrate the anniversary of their relationship by camping - and making love - in the great outdoors. We learn later that this couple is not married, but do share the same address. Seth (Paulo Costanzo) is a rather bookish type, with a PhD, and not too keen on roughing it. Polly (Jill Wagner) is much more enthusiastic about this sex in the outdoors escape. However, their tent is damaged when they try to put it up, and they decide - she reluctantly, he enthusiastically - to celebrate in a motel room in front of cable TV. We cut to a second couple on the highway, standing beside their steaming vehicle, dying on the side of the road. This is Dennis (Shea Whigham), an escaped convict who had been involved in a brutal homicide, and his girl, Lacy (Rachel Kerbs), desperately in need of something to satisfy her drug addiction. These two are escaping to a rather obscure "freedom", across the Mexican border - we learn more about this later. Dennis and Lacy ditch their vehicle and continue along the highway on foot.

    Back to Seth and Polly, looking for their motel, who spy an apparently distressed young woman, Lacy, beside the road. After initially hesitating, Polly and Seth stop to offer help, and find themselves confronted by the gun menacing Dennis, who brutally forces Polly and Seth back into their SUV. The four set-off down the highway. Suddenly the vehicle, driven by Polly, runs over some quilled animal and suffers a puncture. They stop to investigate, and Lacy is stung by a prickle / splinter on the supposedly dead "animal". The four get back into the SUV, find that they are short of gas, and proceed along the highway seeking a service station. They do succeed in finding a gas station - yes, it's THAT gas station - and stop to refill. Lacy, desperate for a "fix", goes to the ladies room, where a horrifying surprise awaits her.

    The remainder of this taut little film all takes place in and directly around the gas station. It is no surprise that not all of the four travellers are going to survive to the end of the movie, but along the way there are plenty of other surprises that will keep your eyes glued to the screen - although at least one scene is  almost too horrendously gruesome to watch. Frequently bringing to mind the 1951 classic The Thing from Another World, ostensibly directed by Christian Nyby but more probably the work of Howard Hawks, the screenplay (Ian Shorr and Kai Barry) is the basis for a  lean and efficient little movie directed by Toby Wilkins. With a background in special effects, director Wilkins wastes no time on superfluous padding and builds excitement from beginning to end. There is a total human cast of six,  the four travellers, down to three in the first half hour, the gas station attendant and a police officer. Each of the principals is developed nicely, beginning as apparent stereotypes but surprising us as the plot  peels back layer after layer of each individual, particularly in the case of  the "villain", Shea Whigham, who recently impressed in Pride and Glory. Costanzo (TV's Joey and Road Trip) and Wagner (Blade : The Series) are also given roles that develop within the action of the plot, and both actors genuinely involve us in the drama unfolding in and around that gas station. Each of the trapped characters is someone we care about, no one totally good or bad. We become really concerned for their fate, and that is the basis of the suspense and genuine terror that builds throughout the eighty-two minutes running time.

    Despite, and perhaps because of, budgetary limitations, first-time director Toby Wilkins  has delivered a genuine little horror gem, cleanly cut and polished to near perfection. Any creative process involves choices being made by the artist, and possible the artistic medium which demands the greatest number of choices is film. Director Wilkins has made the right choices in so many areas .It is extremely difficult to fault anything in his film. Script, casting, performances, wardrobe, setting,  digital camerawork, colour, editing, sound, including Elia Cmiral's eerie and scary score, all are evidence of the right decisions having been made. The opening moments of the film clearly demonstrate that there is someone in charge who really is in command of his craft. Beginning with a fluid overhead shot of the service station, the camerawork and incredibly detailed audio, from insects to crunched chips, draw us hypnotically into the scene, breathlessly waiting for the shock that we know must be coming. It will be very interesting to see what this director does next.

    Splinter is heartily recommended to anyone who enjoys an old fashioned horror film, particularly as this one happens to be an excellent little piece of filmmaking.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Recorded digitally, we have in this Blu-ray release a "little" movie that belies its origins. Not up to the gig budget  top-notch transfers, what we have, however, is an image that never looks less than good, and frequently looks astonishing.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
     
    The image is exceptionally clean and clear, with its inherent absence of grain.
    Detail is at times glorious. The opening shot of the gas station, from the sky down to the individual blades of grass, is outstanding.
    It appears that the limited lighting, in some sequences within the gas station, particularly the freezer section, has resulted in some loss of quality. Darker scenes do suffer, but the general visual impact of the film is excellent.
    Consistent with overall the attention to detail, effective use of colour has been employed. The opening sequence is brilliant, with blue sky, green grass, red gas station sign. This vibrancy is reflected again in the camping equipment packed in the SUV by the "romantic" couple. There is then a strong contrast when we cross to the "criminal" pair, with colours much more subdued, with a greenish tinge to skin tones. The interiors of the gas station are also restricted and muted, suggestive of the fluorescent lighting found in these roadside conveniences.

    With the exception of some low level noise in the darker scenes, this disc was devoid of any artefacts.


    The English for the Hard of Hearing subtitles were sampled and found to be excellent - with quite large white print.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

   To complete the packaging of this unexpected pleasure, we get a solid and dramatic audio package.
   There are four  audio tracks on this DVD : Linear PCM
                                                                    Linear PCM Commentary #1, 
                                                                    Linear PCM Commentary #2
                                                                    Dolby TrueHD 5.1

  The dialogue is perfectly clear and intelligible. There are no clicks, pops, dropouts or sync problems.
  There is also excellent depth to the sound, obvious from the opening seconds with a most impressive panorama of minutely detailed sound.
  Extensive use is made of all channels, with frequent movement across the fronts.
  Rear channels are used extensively for ambient sounds of the desert, such as the insects, the scuttling of the creature, and the chilling score.
  There are no gratuitous subwoofer thumps, often utilised purely to frighten the audience. Instead the LFE channel is used selectively and dramatically, as in the bashing of a head against the plate glass gas station window. You will cringe!
  The musical score by Elia Cmiral was very unusual and added much to the threatening atmosphere. The bass of the sound system also gets a good workout here.
   
  All in all, the disc provides a very satisfactory auditory experience, contributing to the thrills and chills of
 Splinter.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The list of extras looks most impressive, but actually each one is very short, and the total running time is just short of twenty minutes. The quality, though, is better than average, with a nice "down to earth", non formulaic attitude to the film and the work.

Menu

    The menu is presented 1.78:1, and with 16x9 enhancement.
    There is animation - blood splatters and DNA type splashes with created film "artefacts", accompanied by extracts from the score.

    Options presented are :  Play Feature
                                         Scene Selection : Selecting this option gives two overlays, each with  six thumbnails.
                                         Audio Set-Up : Options are : Linear PCM  
                                                                                      Dolby TrueHD 
                                                                                      Audio Commentary with Toby Wilkins and cast members Shea Wigham, Jill Wagner and Paulo Costanzo.
                                                                                      Audio Commentary with Toby Wilkins and production members Nelson Cragg and David Michael Maurer
                                                                                      Subtitles : English for the Hard of Hearing - On / Off
                                        Bonus Features : See below for details.

Bonus Features

All bonus features are presented 1.78:1 and are 16x9 enhanced. Any film clips included are presented at the feature's ratio of 2.35:1.
Featurette audio is Linear PCM.

Behind the Scenes Featurettes :

The Wizard : Special FX Featurette (1:09)
A former Green Beret was the explosives expert on the film, and he demonstrates his particular skill.

Splinter Pumpkin (2:19)
Jill Wagner
most attractively shows us how to make a "splinter pumpkin" for Halloween. Silly, but fun.

Construction: The Creation of the Gas Station (1:53)
This shows us how a deserted skeleton of an actual gas station was rebuilt and fitted to become the set for most of the film's action.

Weather - Lots of It! (1:56)
The problems of the Oklahoma weather during filming - rain, rain and more rain!

Shooting Digitally (2:23)
Director Toby Wilkins voices his enthusiasm for his new digital Arriflex equipment, despite a lifelong appreciation of the qualities of film.

Make-up and Creature Tests (4:06)
With very little assistance from CGI, we are shown the development of the design and construction of the creature puppet. Segments showing the agile contribution of an amazing gymnast are particularly fascinating.

HDNet - A Look at Splinter (4:34)
Strange to have this included, and in standard definition. Nevertheless, an efficient little "behind the scenes" featurette exploring the making of the film.

Conceptual Art Gallery (1:26)
A collection of sketches and paintings tracing the development of the films "horrors".



Director's Feature Length Commentaries :
    Both of these commentaries are accessed from the Audio Set-Up option.
    Happily there is little doubling up in content between these two commentaries, one concentrating more on the input of the actors and the other on that of the technicians.

Director and Cast :
Toby Wilkins is joined by his three principal actors, Shea Whigham, Jill Wagner and Paulo Costanzo. All are frank and honest, and despite the frequent giggling provide fascinating insight into their creative contributions. It is particularly interesting to hear of their regrets about some choices made, and the discussion of the disadvantages of the hand-held camera.
 
Director and Crew :
This time Toby Wilkins is chatting with his director of photography, Nelson Cragg, and editor, Michael Maurer. At times very technical, this discussion is most interesting, and a learning experience for anyone interested in the technical choices that have to be made in moviemaking  From lighting, to filters, to lens choices, these three discuss it all. Very well worth listening to.

 

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 Blu-ray release has DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio instead of Dolby TrueHD 5.1, and additional Spanish subtitles.

Summary

    This is a terrific little horror film, with more genuine thrills than most of the mis-named "blockbusters". Showing tremendous skills as a filmmaker, both in his choices and his actual direction of the on-screen action, Toby Wilkins is a man to watch. The Blu-ray disc looks wonderful, with only minor reservations, and the audio has real punch and effect. There is a collection of short extras, but they do have some quality and content. A thoroughly enjoyable package for any admirer of the genre - and of any well-made movie.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Monday, August 17, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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