Author: Kyle Byrd
Official Movie Site: splicethefilm.com
SPLICE is a “science gone wrong” tale concerning two scientists who dare to play God. The film is a Freudian biological nightmare revolving around Clive and Elsa (played by Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley), a romantically involved pair of scientists who have helped revolutionize genetic engineering by splicing together the DNA of different animals to create new hybrid creatures. When they try to experiment with human DNA, the company that funds their research won’t let them due to their fear of public outcry. Knowing that doing so could lead to breakthroughs in science and medicine, Clive and Elsa decide to conduct the experiments anyway.
The result is Dren, a creature made up of human DNA, as well as the DNA of various animals. Dren appears and acts more human as she ages at an unusually fast rate. From there, the scientists develop all kinds of complex relationships with the creature from paternal to sadistic to sexual. Through it all, Clive and Elsa’s relationship grows extremely complicated and we see Dren put through an existential hell.
To say any more about SPLICE would spoil too much. Directed by Vincenzo Natali (CUBE), and mentored/produced by horror guru Guillermo del Toro, this is a weird, freaky little film that goes in places that you probably won’t see coming. Natali, under the caring eye of del Toro, has crafted a very provocative and interesting film that could have been made by David Cronenberg or Stuart Gordon in the 1980s, complete with uncomfortable sex scenes, squirting body fluids, and phallic shaped creatures. As a veteran of Cronenbergian weirdness (and a sucker for such films), SPLICE still managed to catch me off guard. Every time you think “it won’t go there,” it goes there; and not in terms of gore or anything, but in the boundaries the film is willing to push. This is the type of film that will either click with people or not. Some people may be too cynical to buy the absurd scenarios the film gives, some will find it to be too weird, and others will find it to be a breath of fresh air in the stale sci-fi and horror genres. It’s a film that pushes buttons and is bound to polarize its audience.
This just makes it all the more incredible that Warner Bros. picked it up for a wide release (via Joel Silver’s Dark Castle Entertainment). This is not a film for everyone and it is certainly far from the mainstream. Towards the third act, there’s a situation that turns the whole movie even weirder. Without spoiling it, I’ll just say that this scene will be where the line is drawn in the sand for people. Whether one can stay with the film after that is going to be up to each individual viewer. It’s an absurd situation, but it’s treated so well that it’s also where the film gets really interesting.
SPLICE captures a mood that many horror films fail to capture. It’s got a feeling of constant dread running through it from start to finish. From Dren’s creation up until the ever so bleak ending, things only manage to get worse and worse for these characters.
The acting is really great here. Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley are fantastic in the lead roles. They portray a flawed couple that, through these extraordinary events, finds out that they might not be who they thought they were. The thing about that is that these are things that they would have realized about each other with or without Dren coming between them; it was just a matter of when.
It would be criminal not to mention French model/actress Delphine Chaneac’s performance as Dren. She manages to emote so well without any dialogue that with every distressed sound, your heart breaks a little more. Like Boris Karloff before her, she’s able to make the audience feel for a monster without saying a word. We feel all her sadness, confusion and rage in every scene.
The special effects are also a major highlight. Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger’s KNB Effects Group have done a wonderful job bringing the creatures of SPLICE to life. Dren and the other creatures are pulled off by blending puppets, CG, and makeup effects and the results are pretty much seamless. This really goes to show that the best way to achieve special effects is by combining different mediums based on what’s right for the job, rather than rely entirely on CGI. The effects are incredible, even for a modestly budgeted film like this. It makes one wonder why this approach isn’t taken more often.
This isn’t to say it’s a perfect film. Like most films, SPLICE has its flaws. The screenwriting takes a few shortcuts here and there and the science is way out there, with much of it having little to no real explanation behind it. But these are the types of flaws that rarely get under my skin, so it didn’t bother me. The performances and the story kept me roped in the entire time, so I didn’t even notice these things until way after the movie ended.
SPLICE, as its title may imply, splices together familiar genre conventions into something that looks and feels totally unique. The film puts a Freudian spin on elements of Frankenstein (in fact, the two leads are named after BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN actors Elsa Lanchaster and Colin Clive), and combines it with the themes of David Cronenberg’s films (most notably THE FLY and RABID). And like THE FLY, SPLICE takes a totally ridiculous premise and makes it believable with competent filmmaking, interesting characters and fantastic performances. With Cronenberg having moved on from horror and sci-fi a long time ago, Natali has picked up right where the Canadian master left off.
Even with all these comparisons, SPLICE still manages to stand alone as its own unique film. Be warned though; this is not a film for everyone. This is about as weird as it gets. But if you’re into the weirdo cinema of David Cronenberg, Stuart Gordon, Frank Henenlotter or Shinya Tsukamoto, one really can’t ask for much more. Even with its wonky science and absurd situations, the story is told so well that it sucks you in and keeps you there until it pukes you back up at the end.