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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Splintered (Blu-ray)
Splintered (Blu-ray)
Well Go USA // Unrated // March 20, 2012 // Region A
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted March 18, 2012 | E-mail the Author
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Five barely-twentysomethings venture out to the middle of nowhere. Some of 'em want to get hammered, some of 'em are just looking to screw, and some of 'em...well, some of them are investigating a series of animal mutilations by some bloodthirsty
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beast that's gotten to be a bit of a legend around these parts. Three guesses what happens from there.

I guess that's being unfairly dismissive towards this thriller imported from across the pond, since that makes Splintered sound like just another low-budget dead teenager flick. No, there's a lot more to Splintered than that. I mean, it's just another low-budget dead teenager flick with a psychological edge to it, and that makes it a whole other thing altogether. Except that it doesn't. Whatever. I'm not going to hammer out a long, rambling review here because Splintered is so aggressively derivative, doing pretty much the exact same thing in the exact same way as a couple dozen movies you've already plowed through in your Netflix queue. The characters are all straightahead archetypes: the geeky kid who's tethered to his camcorder, his hyperemotional blonde sister, the distant loner with a fascination for the supernatural, and two mostly interchangeable drinkin'-an'-fuckin' alpha-male types. You're also looking at the unhinged nutjob who says he's just trying to keep everyone safe, along with the stonefaced hunter who's there to look serious and dole out exposition. The same as just about everything throughout Splintered, the performances are competent but fail to make any real impression. None of the characters draw you in or anything. There's no real dramatic hook. Some of the attempts by Sophie (Holly Weston) to escape from her cell in a rundown
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seminary school-slash-orphanage are pretty well-done, but otherwise, there's no real tension or suspense to be found. The body count is hefty, although a lot of the violence takes place offscreen. That can be effective if executed the right way, but...well, you know... The threat that the kids are pitted against isn't overwhelmingly menacing either. I made the mistake of starting to rewatch the Lord of the Rings trilogy immediately before giving Splintered a spin, and...well, without getting too spoilery, the killer is more than a little bit Gollum-esque. It comes across as more of a slobbery impression than a memorable monster all his own.

Splintered just plays like leftovers shoved in the microwave for the eighth or ninth time; you can kind of see something you really liked before in there, but now it's all rubbery and flavorless. Its jump scares are telegraphed so far in advance that you can practically count down to them. There's no rush of adrenaline or eeriness to any of the kills. Hell, the first murder is executed so clumsily that I thought it was a goofy prank and that the kid would burst out of the shadows laughing or something. Nope. There are three different "oh, wait, it was just a dream" sequences. The psychological underpinnings to Splintered's story don't resonate even a little bit. There's nothing particularly ambitious or inventive about the movie. Splintered benefits somewhat from its atmospheric cinematography and crumbling seminary school backdrop, but not enough to salvage the rest of the mediocrity on display. I don't want to give the impression that Splintered is some soulcrushing abomination of a thriller as that's really not the case at all. It's competent (barely) but excessively familiar, shamelessly aping better thrillers and missing just about every last one of those marks. Not abysmal, not terrific, not memorable...it's one of those movies that's just sort of there, and who has time for that anymore? Skip It.

Splintered was shot digitally with the RED camera, and it has that...well, that distinctive RED look to it, with decent detail and clarity, a slight tinge of softness, and flattish contrast. The AVC encode
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doesn't seem to suffer much from the modest bitrate, and I couldn't spot any banding, edge enhancement, posterization, or the like. Colors come through alright, tinted blue at night and somewhat muted in the bright of day. Nothing that'll curl any toes but no major complaints.

Splintered has been letterboxed to an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is dished out on a single layer Blu-ray disc. The second disc in the set is an anamorphic widescreen DVD.

This 16-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is kind of all over the place. The sound design makes an immediate impression with some unseen snarling beast encircling the viewer, and its heavy, labored breathing is reinforced quite effectively by the subwoofer. The score is frequently backed by a low-frequency rumble to try to establish an unnerving atmosphere. At the same time, the stings that punctuate the jump scares are anemic. The music is generally content to limp from the speakers, not roaring with the sort of ferocity that's generally associated with horror/thriller scores. Distinctness, clarity, and fidelity also sound fairly DVD-esque to my ears. Some of the forest sequences are marred by an annoyingly heavy hiss. Coming off the worst would have to be Splintered's dialogue. At best, it sounds flat and canned; at worst, it warbles with a distractingly digital echo, as if the dialogue is emerging from multiple speakers that are slightly out of sync. A wildly uneven effort.

A Dolby Digital stereo track (192kbps) has also been included. No subtitles this time around, tho'.

Though all of the extras on Splintered are
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presented in 1080p24, they've clearly been upconverted from standard-def. Also, although there isn't an explicit 'play all' feature for the deleted scenes or behind the scenes featurettes, they do all play in sequence from wherever you decide to start.

  • Behind the Scenes (42 min.; SD): Splintered features an extensive assortment of making-of featurettes, with clips dedicated to lining up producers and financing, standing out as one of the first British films to use the RED camera, the editing process, production design, the musical influences and mindset behind the score, and effects work fielded both practically and digitally. Another featurette delves into the logistics behind one particularly challenging sequence, and there are also lengthy interviews with director Simeon Halligan and the bulk of the cast. Comprehensive and mostly well-done, although I'll admit to being a bit puzzled by "The Designer" which seems largely like extended leftovers from some of the other featurettes.

  • Deleted Scenes (13 min.; SD): There are nine deleted scenes in this reel, the bulk of which are heavy on setup that ultimately doesn't contribute all that much. Clearly that was gutted for pacing. What's really intriguing here are the alternate endings. They seem a bit mislabeled since (1) they're both part of the same ending, despite being listed separately, and (2) it's more of an epilogue than anything else. The fascinating thing is that it paints everything that had come before it in the film in an entirely different light, and it perhaps too closely echoes that French thriller that will go unnamed that was clearly a heavy source of inspiration for Splintered.

  • Promotional Material (4 min.; SD): Last up are two teasers and a full-length trailer.

As mentioned a couple paragraphs up, Splintered also piles on an anamorphic widescreen DVD.

The Final Word
Splintered is a competent but aggressively routine British import, listlessly trudging through the same motions as just about every other low-budget psychological thriller you could rattle off. The same thing you've seen a couple hundred thousand times before, just cheaper and clunkier. Skip It.
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