A hideous parasite/monster/thing that leaps out from the darkness and flings its deadly thorns at unsuspecting gas-station attendants/troubled women/others-to-be-named-later can be a beautiful sight. It sure is in Splinter, a nifty horror movie that doesn?t claim to be anything other than a zippy exercise in creature-feature entertainment. And on that score, this lithe, low-budget people-versus- insatiable-bloodsucker comedy of horrors works like a charm. Or is it an expert curse?
Toby Wilkins, a British visual-effects pro, makes his fine, scary-funny, gore-splattered feature directorial debut after a series of fan-fave shorts. His splinter-spewing entity, which turns victims into undead hosts, is itself barely seen; it’s the needle-stuck who receive the F/X love, with even more attention lavished on psychological shifts among a trio of squabblers who lock themselves into a forlorn, fluorescent-lit gas station and peer nervously into the blackness. The threesome — an imposingly competent, outdoorsy young woman (Jill Wagner), her wussy, indoorsy scientist husband (Paulo Costanzo), and a short- tempered, carjacking escaped con (Shea Whigham, hunky as a baddie) — may have issues with one another. But they had better find a way to bond, hadn’t they, if they want to save their hides from a stick in the pants? B+