Director: Vincenzo Natali
Starring: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Chaneac
Moviegoers eat up films about people with superpowers, time travelers and aliens. They’re utterly absurd and therefore can simply be labeled as pure entertainment. But what happens when you take an absurd concept and infuse it with even the slightest degree of pragmatism? Splice happens. It’s natural to want to dismiss a concept suggesting the devastating results of a seemingly possible experiment, but by permitting yourself to absorb it, you’ll open yourself up to a potentially stirring and thoughtful experience.
Clive and Elsa (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) are a team of top-notch genetic engineers who focus on splicing the DNA of different animals to create hybrid creatures. Splice begins from the perspective of their latest creation, Fred. The duo creates Fred to complement Ginger, a female version of the same organism. The pharmaceutical company backing this whole venture is after a breakthrough protein with the power to cure genetic diseases. This is great and all, but Clive and Elsa are thinking even bigger; they want to throw some human DNA into the mix and really spice things up and take their experimentation way beyond this magic protein. However, the company’s plan only concerns the immediate benefits, not long term potential and their hopes to expand are extinguished – or so the company thinks.
Clive and Elsa go ahead with their research anyway, Clive more reluctantly than Elsa, and Dren is born. At first she resembles some sort of naked mole rat, but ultimately matures into something more human-like, save for a set of velociraptor legs. Looks aside, Dren is Elsa’s baby and she starts to treat her like one. Dren ages at an accelerated rate and Elsa is there to teach her along the way, just as a normal mother would educate her growing child, with toys and games. The thing is, Dren is much smarter than originally anticipated. She absorbs everything happening around her, continues to mature physically and ultimately grows out of their control.
Splice can be divided into two sections of sick and twisted. First off, from the civilized standpoint, human cloning is a major no no. This isn’t exactly a cloning case, but human DNA is in the equation, giving rise to some serious ethical questions. It’s one thing to evaluate the issue from afar, but narrowing it down to a particular instance and specific people makes it feel real and when it feels real, it’s truly freaky. Clive and Elsa go through a major transformation. At the onset they’re a loving couple with similar hopes and dreams, but the second Dren is thrown into the equation their opinions deviate drastically. It’s unnerving enough to see Elsa’s motherly instincts kick in as she raises this abnormal being, but the fact that the more sensible outlook is present in Clive, increases the oddness of Elsa’s behavior exponentially. By the end both are guilty of committing the unthinkable. Without spoiling what the unthinkable is, just prepare yourself to be shocked, disgusted and everything in between.
The non-human stars are even more disconcerting. At first, Fred and Ginger are just giant blobs that make a cooing noise, but eventually they shed their cuteness and get violent; I’m talking Michael Myers violent. Dren is far worse. Even in her baby-like stage, she’s difficult to look at. It’s one thing to see a completely new species like Fred and Ginger’s, but the fact that Dren somewhat resembles a human being is what makes her so distressing. On top of that, she can’t speak and is only capable of making blood-curdling screeches. And that’s only the beginning of her long list of discomforting features. As the movie evolves, so does she and to that point at which you completely forget that she ever resembled something even the slightest bit adorable.
Oddly enough, this unbelievably imaginative story is packed with uninventive dialogue. Brody is talented enough to work with what he’s given and at least make his character credible. Polley doesn’t fail completely, but she does have a much harder time making a viable connection. However, her relationship with Brody is alive and thriving, making both Clive and Else charming heroes.
Splice is a lot to stomach. It’s fascinating and exciting yet disturbing and potentially upsetting. The concept is just so out there that instances intended to evoke shock become laughable. These scenes aren’t genuinely funny; they’re just so outrageous the laughter kicks in almost as a defense mechanism. It’s impossible to deny the hint of truth behind the plot, leaving you with a sense of unease throughout. Ultimately you’ll either have to embrace this conglomeration of absurdity, honesty and terror or completely dismiss it. I’m opting for the former.
By Perri Nemiroff