Two brilliant young scientists, and couple, Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) have made a major breakthrough with gene splicing technology. They have managed to create two new hybrid creatures, a male and female, by splicing together various animals DNA. Their employers, a generic, faceless pharmaceutical company intend to use the secretions from these new creatures to create a new line of veterinarian drugs.
Clive and Elsa believe that they can develop their technology even further, with the use of human DNA. The company management dismiss the idea and instruct the duo to begin testing and documenting their artificial creations. Undaunted, Clive and Elsa forge ahead with their attempts to splice human DNA with that of their creation… “Just to prove to ourselves that we can do it”. They create Dren (Delphine Chaneac), whose accelerated life-cycle causes her to grow, physically, mentally and emotionally at a rate that Clive and Elsa are ill equipped to handle. Dren soon outgrows their research facility, where they have been able to keep her hidden, and they move her to a farm on the outskirts of town.
Splice is a modern day update of the Frankenstein tale; just in case we don’t get it, writer/director Vincenzo Natali even names his leads after Colin Clive and Elsa Lanchester from the classic Bride of Frankenstein. Natali also takes cues from David Cronenberg and Lynch, as well as Jurassic Park and that well known ‘mouse with a human ear on its back’ that made the news a few years back. All good touchstones and ones that Natali doesn’t shy away from or simply imitate, as he has at least tried to make something new and different. It doesn’t always work, the end feels rushed, almost tacked on from a different film and designed to satisfy those waiting for the horror, but overall it’s a satisfying film. In fact the end of the movie, or the last 20 minutes, takes a turn into the absurd, wildly over the top WTF realm that will be the main talking point for anyone who watches the film. I didn’t hate it, i just expected something as thoughtful as the first 80 minutes.
Natali has made a twisted look at parenthood and as with Frankenstein; it is the creature we come to identify with and the humans who demonstrate the worst traits, jealousy, anger, indifference and finally rejection of their creation/child. The main trio of Brody, Polley and Chaneac are excellent, however the supporting roles all feel underdeveloped and stereotypical, there simply to provide impetus or explanation to the plot.
Natali has made an intelligent and visually striking film; it is a real labour of love that has taken him more than a decade to realise. However the film belongs to Dren; the acting by Delphine Chaneac and Abigail Chu (who plays the young Dren) and the effects created to bring her to life are exceptional. The blending of actor, traditional make-up effects and CGI is of a very high standard.
I really enjoyed Splice, it’s not what you expect; the trailer sells a different film. It isn’t the over the top sci-fi horror flick that the trailers portray, it’s a smart and different take on familiar themes. It won’t work for everyone, but it’s well worth the effort if you’re looking for a change of pace.
Quality: 4 out of 5 stars
Any good: 4 out of 5 stars