Splice (2010)

Splice is a decent drama and a poor horror film. It asks an overwhelmingly obvious set of moral questions and is a heavy-handed metaphor for the cyclic nature of parenthood, but if you buy into the concept, tone and characters then you’ll certainly enjoy yourself.

Genetic scientists Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) are splicing experts, respected in their field to such an extent they’ve become mini celebrities, even outside the scientific community. They’ve created new life by splicing animal genes together, and a valuable new protein with it. Despite working for a corporation, they remain sassy, smart, cool and incredibly eager to move to the next level. They’re horrified, however, when their boss demands they cease their research in favour of marketing what they’ve already created.

Angered by the corporation’s greed, the two previously free-reigning scientists continue their splicing techniques in secret. Breaking international law and the boundaries of ethics, they drop human DNA into the splicing process, hoping to create a creature capable of providing cures for hundreds of diseases. What they create, however, is something more human than animal. Deciding to keep their ground-breaking mistake, this unfortunate decision leads them down a dark path filled with danger, deceit, betrayal and death.

Vincenzo Natali does a competent job of directing Splice, making it feel like a compact and personal film until the final, utterly derivative twenty minutes. The only quibble is how Splice could have been incredibly disturbing and haunting, creepy and genuinely scary, especially with the creation and discovery of a new life. Yet it’s all done matter-of-factly, with little innovation or attempts to surprise. The shots you expect happen, and although not soaked in clichés, Splice ambles down a well-worn path to its inevitable conclusion.

Weird Science films are a tough nut to crack – they either go trashy, slightly comedic horror (Freaked, Return of the Killer Tomatoes) or dramatic and horribly disturbing (The Fly, Human Centipede) and Splice falls firmly into the second category. Yet without the horror. The creators, however, wanted to play with a number of genres, and the result is a Marmite, ham and chocolate milkshake. The individual ingredients may be enjoyed by some people, but combining them creates something altogether questionable and uncomfortable.

Despite the plotting and uninspired direction, there are some excellent elements that make up Splice. Brody and Polley are superb throughout, and they take the tired dialogue and make it believable, shaping the characters into a realistic couple teetering on the cusp of a scientific miracle. They’re not hugely loveable, both displaying horrendously demented character flaws, but they’re likeable enough for you to care what happens to them.

The star of the show, however, is the “creation” herself – the bizarre and captivating Dren. She is played fantastically by Abigail Chui (young Dren) and Delphine Chaneac, with more touches of honest humanity than any of the humans on screen. The CGI, make up and effects are excellent, and the creators of Dren can be satisfied that they’ve done an immense job. Brilliant work.

Essentially the fault lies with the scripting – the story and screenplay – again penned by Natali, with co-writer Antoinette Terry Bryant. It is incredibly unsubtle on a metaphorical and allegorical scale, and panders to a stupider audience than is expected. It works on an obvious level, but is not as smart as it pretends to be.

Splice, rather ironically, is a combination of a number of genres that do not work when spliced together. It’s not a horror, it’s not a drama, it’s not a thriller, it’s not an overly intelligent brain-scratching weird science film. It’s an enjoyable, intriguing movie that starts off well and cascades senselessly towards a frustratingly dense finale. Brilliant acting and effects save Splice from mediocrity, but only just. Good fun, but sadly lacking the brilliance it was begging to have.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.