Tag: toby wilkins


Splinter (2008)
★★★ / ★★★★

Here is a zombie picture that has nothing to do with a virus. Written by Ian Shorr and Kai Barry, the imaginative and suspenseful “Splinter” takes on a straightforward, no subplot approach of focusing on four characters trying to survive a night of horrors—first on the road and then inside a gas station. Sure, the frights are familiar and there are more than a few instances in which the jolts can be anticipated down to the split-second, but there is no denying that the execution gets the job done. It is creepy, efficient, and riotously watchable. As a genre piece, it works.

Polly (Jill Wagner) and Seth (Paulo Costanzo), a couple celebrating their anniversary, are stopped by a wanted man (Shea Whigham) and his drug addicted girlfriend (Rachel Kerbs), on the run to Mexico, while on their way to a motel. But this is no ordinary hostage situation. The four must team up quickly to try to outsmart and outlive an organism that takes over corpses and “eats” or metabolizes nutrients. These four personalities are indeed archetypes (the brain, the tough chick, the criminal, the drug addict), but the performances are enthusiastic enough and the impossible situation is terrifying enough for us to be able to overlook the more recognizable aspects of the screenplay.

The makeup and creature effects are inspired. In a way, the organism in question does not have a defined form. So the specialists are forced to be creative. We see ominous-looking spikes protruding from its hosts, but this is only a defense mechanism. When touched, for instance, these spikes can easily embed themselves on the skin and taking over the host begins. Although there is a trope involving one of the survivors having to keep secret that he or she has been infected, I didn’t mind so much because the overall situation’s tension keeps increasing. I enjoyed that there is a discovery to be made every fifteen minutes or so. Clearly, the material does not lack confidence.

The organism is capable of putting together dead bodies from various sources so the appearance of the enemy likens that of Frankenstein’s monster. It is strong, it moves quickly, and the camera is tickled to show us how ugly it looks when it lunges for an attack. It is unclear whether it feels pain or suffering. I’m inclined to believe it does not. To increase the ante, the organism can also live in an excised body part and control it to move. There is a funny and terrifying bit with a hand in an enclosed space. Good stuff.

“Splinter” is directed by Toby Wilkins and it functions on pure forward momentum. Coupled with a screenplay that assumes viewers have seen a number of zombie films, there are a number of instances here where expectations are subverted and played for uncomfortable laughs. Then just around the corner the real horror awaits.

The Grudge 3

The Grudge 3 (2009)
★ / ★★★★

“The Grudge 3,” directed by Toby Wilkins, started off pretty creepy as we got to observe Jake (Matthew Knight) being committed in a mental institution under the care of a psychiatrist (Shawnee Smith). We then cut to the siblings (Gil McKinney, Johanna Brady, Jadie Hobson) who were taking care of the apartment complex where Jake and his family used to live. Just when I thought that this second sequel will be better than “The Grudge 2,” it became bogged down by the conventions of the horror genre. For instance, a character deciding to enter a dark apartment from which a strange noise could be heard, a character having a moral dilemma concerning her family, and the all-too-obvious false alarms that might have worked if the material had a superior story. The bad and downright cheesy dialogue was just too much for me so when the characters were ultimately placed in front of the malevolent ghosts, I couldn’t help but not be scared. Admittedly, the shocks such as when the ghosts would appear out of nowhere which was aided by a booming score worked for me. But the aftershock was not present, an element that I believe is crucial for horror pictures. The side stories bored me half to death. The fashion model boyfriend (Beau Mirchoff), the Japanese woman with a mysterious link to the curse and the psychiatrist hoping to find some answers slowed the story down immensely. In my opinion, “The Grudge” is not all that scary. I’m surprised a lot of people embraced the first few movies (including the Japanese originals and the American version starring Sarah Michelle Gellar). There’s something about the entire franchise that seems redundant to me. I’m not entirely sure if it’s the fact that the curse is unbeatable or if it’s just the same kind of characters making the same bad decisions. If it’s the former, it begs the question of what the point is for watching the movies. And if it’s the latter, I can’t help but blame the lazy writing; it can’t be that difficult to establish a well-rounded character who we care for and root for up until the very end… and he or she not dying in the process. If you’re not a fan of the series in the first place, there’s absolutely no reason for you to see “The Grudge 3.” But if you are a fan and you do decide to see it, expect more of the same.