Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Lessons on Love (and Killing Monsters) from SPLINTER

Do you really love your boo? It’s a question that we ask ourselves, especially when we first say those three words, “I love you.” It’s also a question that will pop up if both of you are ever chased by a creature! 

I didn’t have a boo in 2008, but I did have director Toby Wilkins’s movie Splinter. This movie showcased the epitome of love, revealing that couple you always dreamed of becoming, as well as that couple you fear running into.

Splinter introduces us to the beautiful couple Polly Watt (Jill Wagner) and her boyfriend Seth Belzer (Paulo Constanzo). Their plan was to go camping for their anniversary, and ultimately, do the nasty under the sky. But mere minutes after parking their truck, their first nightmare arrives: neither of them knows how to put together the tent. They struggle until Seth accidentally snaps one of the legs. This dampens the plans, while also sweetening his desire to sleep in a comfortable bed at the nearest hotel.

Disappointed, Polly returns to the driver seat and turns the truck down the barren road until a woman (Lacey Belisle) appears waving for them to stop. The truck brakes in the distance in front of her. In the front seats, Polly and Seth question how she got there and weigh if they should continue forward without her. A tap on the driver door spins their attention to the woman’s boyfriend Dennis (Shea Whigham), who holds a gun and forces his way into the beginning of the worst night of everyone’s life.

I’ll start with Splinter‘s limited budget, which stood more as an asset then a liability to creating an exceptional film. For example, majority of the plot takes place in a rundown gas station with surrounded by woods. Thomas and Jennifer Spence served as the art directors and production designers, and succeeded in the challenge of bringing one small location to life. This duo has worked on Insidious, Lights Out, The Nun, Annabelle: Creation, and virtually anything else that has kept you up at night. Truthfully, I wonder if my husband would let them decorate our house. Probably not, so I’ll settle for imagining entering Splinter’s rundown gas station, reaching through the rusty, barred back door, and fearing the surrounding woods that contain the creature intent on ending my life.

This gas station was also the stage for one of the best lines in horror cinema. “Don’t think for a minute that what happens out there, changes who we are in here.” I remember stealing that line and using it in a speech to my friend before she went off to nursing school. She cried in admiration of my wordplay. I smiled in deceit of my thievery. This line came from Shea Whigham’s character, and stood as a line among many memorable ones.

Alongside the dialogue, the story soared. Writers Ian Shorr and Kai Barry refused to take the easy path to the ending. Characters were fleshed out, whether it was a man striving to fulfill a purpose, or a woman set on protecting what she loves. Furthermore, there were few reckless actions from characters. If someone had a questionable plan, it was intensely debated before a better (though still dangerous) solution arrived.

Speaking of characters, guess what? There were only six. Now, I don’t know if you are like me, but I have an obsession with watching background actors. I imagine them with their carts in shopping centers, strolling by the main actors and picking up canned goods, thinking if they should actually pick up corn on the way home after filming wraps for the day. Background actors intrigue me. But with this movie, I didn’t have the pleasure, nor the desire, of seeing them. The main characters were so engaging, and the love they shared was authentic. And what this presented overall was a lesson in necessity.

The film even taught this lesson with the special effects. I knew beforehand that Quantum Creations FX did the effects; therefore, I knew that I wouldn’t see garbage. But majority of the film, you couldn’t make out the creature chasing the humans. Typically, we all despise a shaky camera at pivotal times; but here, it heightened the suspense, as if the camera operators wanted to bolt away from the danger like the characters. Hey, I wouldn’t blame them because I would react the same in that situation.

Additionally, the special effects worked seamlessly with the cinematography, spearheaded by Nelson Cragg, who offered closeups of deadly needles and humans transforming into blood-thirsty creatures. Cragg is the man, and shines in capturing a character’s subtext. Honestly, if you have ever cut on a television, you have no doubt witnessed Cragg’s work. From CSI and Breaking Bad to Elementary, American Crime Story, and American Horror Story, Cragg, as the kids say these days, is killing the game. Pair his work with editor David Michael Maurer (American Idol, The Apprentice) and music composer Elia Cmiral (Bones, They), and you have a team that can make a feast from nothing.

So, we return to necessity and to the question you need to answer: Do you really love your boo? If you are struggling to answer, or if you are unsure of how your boo will answer, you both need to watch this together. Does your love match the love of the couples in this movie? If not, he or she may not be the one. At this point, the only encouraging words I could offer are: Well, at least you got a chance to watch a great movie, dude. Point blank. Period.

 3 out 5 queen skulls!

Post a Comment