A lot of horror films are released directly to DVD these days, and most of them are a heaping pile of crap. It's tough to search through all these movies and find one that is remotely well done and worthy of your time, but there are certainly some gems out there that deserve to be found, and last year's Splinter is one of those movies.
Directed by Toby Wilkins, Splinter starts with a sympathetic couple, Seth and and Polly, who are celebrating their anniversary with a camping trip. Since this is a horror movie, you know things have to start going wrong, and they do, when Seth and Polly are carjacked by Dennis and his cokehead girlfriend Lacey. Turns out that being crajacked really ruins the mood, and, obviously, having two armed robbers in your car is enough to disturb your focus on the road. They end up running over a dog. They stop to check on the animal, but what they find is more of a mangled mass of hair and blood, with black splinters sticking out of it. Unfortunately, contact with this dog gets one of them infected with the spikey-like thing (turning into a sort of zombiefied, violent, bloody, walking sea-urchin) and, soon, they have to barricate themselves on a gas station and try to avoid getting infected by the splinters.
The movie starts out pretty slowly, but once it gets going it doesn't stop. Since the story is set mostly in a gas station, with only a handful of characters, it could get pretty boring, but the characters are actually interesting and well developed enough to keep you interested. They also don't make stageringly dumb decisions, like so many horror movie characters: their ideas make sense most of the time, and they really work with all they've got to keep the monster at bay. The setting is also effective, because imagining yourself alone, in a gas station in the middle of nowhere, trying to keep a splinter monster from killing you, is pretty scary.
Effects-wise, the movie is a low budget, but pulls off the gore really well. When a person is infected with the parasite, you'll see bones break, joints bend in ways they weren't meant too, bodies cracking, and it'll make you squirm in your seat. All of that is really well achieved, especially keeping in mind this is an indie, low-budget film.
To sum it up, Splinter is a great indie effort, and deserves its praise. With so many washed up horror remakes coming out these days, it's refreshing to see an original horror movie that, although it has its flaws, manages to present solid characters, a suspenseful story and a disgusting monster. It gets 3.5 out of 5 Splinters from me.