Splinter has a hackneyed gimmick—dead bodies trying to smash their way into an isolated convenience store—but I loved it to pieces: scuttling hands, marauding legs, spinning torsos. The source of the mayhem is a parasitic fungus that uses splinters (they’re more like quills) to puncture anything with blood in its veins; the bodies are reanimated, whatever their yuck-o condition. The English director, Toby Wilkins, has a long career in special effects and knows how to shoot them: tight, the victims’ bodies twisting furiously to avoid contact. The rest of the time, he has a visual sense of menace—the store, with its short aisles and sharp corners, becomes a terrifying obstacle course. Best of all, the film has real dramatic tension and a first-rate cast. It begins with a nerdy (but not too nerdy—see the last review) biologist (Paulo Costanzo) and his brainy-hotcha girlfriend getting carjacked by an escaped convict (the charismatic Shea Whigham) and his delusional drug-addicted girlfriend (Rachel Kerbs)—the threat is from without and within. The result, however clichéd, is spectacularly unnerving: hair-trigger horror.
More horror: For Halloween, the IFC Center revives Werner Herzog’s somnolent but evocative Nosferatu remake, worth seeing for Klaus Kinski’s chalky, taloned, world-weary bloodsucker, who falls on Isabelle Adjani’s white throat like a suckling infant. At the Film Forum, do not miss the documentary Stranded, a haunting work in which the survivors of the notorious 1972 Andean plane crash return to the site of their ordeal. What continues to grip us in this story, now told multiple.