If you go down to the woods today…
*****WARNING! MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!*****
Sometimes there’s nothing more enjoyable than a bad movie.
Sometimes it just doesn’t matter that the screenwriter couldn’t write "FUCK" on a dusty Venetian blind, that the actors couldn’t act the goat, the director couldn’t direct traffic or that the cinematographer couldn’t expose himself let alone film, some films are just touched by fate, the cosmos or your dear and fluffy Lord to rise far above their limitations, slap you around the chops and entertain you whether you like it or not.
Sometimes they’ll star people you kinda, sorta recognise, people like Bruce Campbell or Tim Thomerson or Gary Busey, people who had their shot at the big time and missed. Often they’ll feature people who, regardless of their acting abilities, spend a lot of time undraped (Misty Mundae and Cerina Vincent, God bless ya both!). And sometimes they’ll feature people who are, well, just a bit too mental to be anywhere else (Klaus Kinski, Udo Kier). They’ll be produced by Roger Corman and unashamedly directed by Charles Band and what they lack in execution they’ll more than make up for in ideas. Sometimes a bad movie can be a joy.
Splintered is not one of those films. Splintered is just plain baaaaaaad. Splintered is the type of bad movie that’s so bad, it makes you want to poke out your own eyeball and bat it around your head like a Swingball in a forlorn attempt to distract yourself from just how bad the film is. Splintered is Sex and the City 2 bad.
With unexplained animal attacks plaguing the Welsh countryside, damaged teenager Sophie (Holly Weston) persuades her Scooby Doo gang of centrally-cast, disposable friends to venture into the woods with her in search for the mythical beast the tabloids say is to blame. But when they’re savagely attacked, Sophie wakes up, imprisoned, in a crumbling, abandoned orphanage tended by twitchy loon Gavin (Stephen Walters) who may be all that stands between Sophie and the beast. Can her disposable friends and pistol-packing priest (???) Father Thomas (Colin Tierney) save Sophie before she ends up as dinner? Will you care?
Possibly Britain’s first carbon-neutral horror film - it recycles the plots of at least half a dozen other horror films – it’s hard to identify just where Splintered went wrong. There’s so much choice. Shot like a particularly grimy episode of Doctor Who, Splintered rolls out the old cliched and over-familiar ‘pretty teens in peril in the woods’ plot one more time and kicks the crap out of it. Writer/director Simeon Halligan seems particularly fond of that hoary old plot device of putting a character in peril only for them to wake with a start and find ‘it was all a dream’ and for a movie where a bunch of attractive teens are murdered in the woods it’s all a bit coy and sexless (c’mon Simeon that’s half the fun of these kinda films). Apart, that is, from one slightly queasy scene, which I’m sure I saw in a Sherilyn Fenn film 15 years ago, where the heroine gets stripped and sexually assaulted by a werewolf. But, whew, she wakes up and it was all a dream! At least Sherilyn actually boffed the werewolf in Phantoms. Ok, I remember more of that film than I usually admit.
The cast are, for the most part, uniformly bad, turning in performances pitched at that hallowed middle ground somewhere between Thunderbirds puppet and Hollyoaks mannequin. Sullenly attractive Holly Weston is fine as the sullenly attractive heroine but she’s called upon to do nothing more than look sullenly attractive, run around, scream a bit and cry on cue. Something she spectacularly fails to do. She’s an actress. Who on the evidence of Splintered CANNOT CRY ON CUE! She tries. She scrunches her nose and screws up her face. She makes the right crying and sniffing noises, shoulders shaking with emotion. But there’s no tears. Not even lemon juice-inspired ones. Which would be fine if her character didn’t spend much of the film crying. Or if writer/director Simeon Halligan hadn’t insisted in shooting her in loving close-up. SO WE CAN SEE SHE’S NOT CRYING!
But, if you’re a fan of ludicrous over-acting, then Splintered may just be the treat you’ve been looking for as it features some fine scenery chewing from Colin Tierney and not one but two performances of twitchy, eye-rolling lunacy from professional twitchy, eye-rolling loon Stephen Walters. Playing a gun-toting priest, TV stalwart Tierney (he’s one of those actors you kinda half-recognise from shows like Cracker and Midsomer Murders) has obviously recognised that subtlety really isn’t in keeping with the director’s vision of him as a Scouse avenging angel and contents himself with swishing around in a big coat with a big gun like a bargain basement Captain Jack Harkness. Having played a twitchy, eye-rolling loon in movies like The 51st State (ratty, psycho skinhead with the runs), Franklyn (ratty, psycho informer) and TV’s Skins (ratty, psycho drug dealer), here Walters gets the chance to really stretch himself. By playing two twitchy, eye-rolling loons, damaged Gavin and his feral brother Vincent. Sometimes Simeon, less is more.
Touchingly, Splintered is dedicated to Executive Producer Clive Parsons (Gregory’s Girl, Scum, Tea with Mussolini) who died last year. And that strange, ominous tone on Splintered’s soundtrack isn’t scary music, it’s the sound of him spinning in his grave.
Holly Weston, Stephen Walters, Sacha Dhawan, Sadie Pickering
Simeon Halligan, Mat Archer & Stephen Trimingham