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Splintered (2008)
Director: Simeon Halligan

review by Matthew S. Dent

Splintered is a British horror film, revolving around a group of teenagers going camping in the woods, ostensibly to hunt for a creepy monster which has been terrorising the countryside� Said teenagers all conform to the various expected character moulds here: damaged, slightly gothy 'hero'; normal guy on a quest to sleep with the 'hero'; the thick blonde best friend of the 'hero'; blondie's rich, sex-pest boyfriend; and blondie's geeky brother, who is some sort of film expert.

The plot sees them randomly picked off by a creature, which might be a man, or might be being 'cared for' by a man. The whole thing seems rather confused for most of the film that you could be forgiven for not having much of a clue what's happening at all, and just picking a handful of flat and uninspiring genre tropes in substitute.

The first, and most pressing, of the problems it encounters is that the lighting guy was clearly on holiday for the whole duration of filming, and his incompetent assistant stood in. I realise that a good deal of the action happens at night and in shadowy derelict buildings, making lighting difficult, but I would have thought it would be a basic tenement of filmmaking that if the audience can't see what's happening, then there's no point in making the film.

There were a few times when one of the characters said something to the effect of 'Look at that!', and a shaky torch beam would fall on something that I couldn't damn well make out. Added to the fact that it made action scenes a blurry mess, and made the dramatic scenes an overblown fest of half-shadowed stern-looking faces, and I spent enough of the film cursing the lighting to make it the main focus of my criticism.

But aside from the fact that half of the film was invisible, was the frankly mad storyline. Bits were tacked onto the plot seemingly at random, with the audience not being subtly misled but just outright confused. This fact is underlined by the running theme of the hero's virginity, which seemed to serve no actual purpose, be only tenuously linked to the plot, and which the cynic in me is convinced is only there for the sweaty male adolescent demographic. Nothing is made of it throughout the film, except a flat attempt at dramatic characterisation too late in the day to matter.

The British scenery, when it's visible, however is well used - though I confess to being a little biased, recognising it during the film as my old part of the world. There's a real sense of isolation to the setting, which makes it a real shame they didn't make more of it. If the story and lighting hadn't been awful, this could have had the makings of a good film.

Overall, I can't really recommend this film. The very feel of it is substandard, and the ludicrous plot is so hard to follow, especially with the poor lighting, that it becomes an effort to watch. It sums it up, that at the end one of the characters basically explains the whole plot. It's not good storytelling and definitely not good filmmaking.


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