Movie Review: “SPLINTER”: Terror Has Deep Roots…

Splinter, the new Award-winning (Kevin Smith Best Homegrown Feature Award at the Garden State Film Festival) suspense thriller from horror filmmaker Tom Ryan, kicks off with a flashback to the past: “Baltimore, Maryland: 30 Years Ago”:  A mother (Amanda Brooke Lemer) abruptly leaves her young son Scott (Michael P.J. Marston) in the care of his aunt and uncle, offering only the vague explanation that his father was “gone”.  The audience is left just as puzzled as the child. Immediately, the audience knows that something dark may be going on. Fast forward to the current day, and the boy is now a grown man (Jim Thalman) with a pretty, loving wife named Teresa (Kristin Muri) and plucky teenage daughter named Olivia (Quincy Saadeh). After his mother’s death, the family prophetically moves into his childhood home in Delaware, which Scott has now inherited.   While doing routine house renovations, Scott gets a seemingly innocent splinter in his foot.  When the audience hears our main character declare, “Yeah, I just got a splinter…”, we eerily know that there’s much more to it than just a centimeter-long sliver of wood.  Surely enough, strange things start happening to the suburban dad, both physically and mentally.  In addition to excruciating pain, Scott starts having hallucinations, with strange visions of… forests. While struggling to shake himself back to reality, his mother’s and father’s secrets– left uncovered since his childhood– S-L-O-W-L-Y start to surface.  Clues come courtesy of the family’s new neighbor (Larry Mihlon), the local bartender Tuck (Andrew Hunsicker), and– most importantly– a mysterious elderly Native American man named Lenni (played chillingly by Joe Amorino).  In addition, Teresa discovers a vintage cache of newspaper clippings left by Scott’s late mother.  The audience learns that ultimately, our main character may have inherited not just a house, but also a dark legacy.  Think you figured it out? You haven’t even chipped the surface…

Supernatural elements and disquieting special effects (by Michael Anthony Scardillo) aside, what makes Splinter so successful as a thriller is the provocative– and totally believable– story underneath the haunting, lichen-covered surface.  The story is by Todd Staruch, who also produced the film. In addition to the strong current of mystery running underneath and the solid story, Splinter is also bolstered by some truly innovative camera work and fine acting.

So, about the acting: In the lead role, Jim Thalman does an excellent job as the sensitive husband and father who still wears his childhood trauma on his face.  Quincy Saadeh is a standout as Olivia.  All three lead actors– Thalman, Saadeh, and Kritin Muri– are very believable in their characters’ family dynamics.  In fact, had their early moments together in Splinter be excised, their scenes could fit effortlessly into any genre.  That said, Splinter is indeed a horror movie, and as with its antecedents in the Theater of Terror family, writer/director Ryan knows how to tap into humankind’s rawest fears to get a reaction from deep inside the spinal nerves.  At the risk of giving too much away, I won’t name all of those raw fears in Splinter, but I will say that anyone who has a phobia about going to the doctor’s office… well, you were warned.  

For more information about Splinter and future showings, visit

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