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Splice (Review)

Splice (Review)

It's not horror...not entirely.
Jul 30, 2010
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Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller Release Date: 12/08/2010 Runtime: 104 minutes Country: Canada, France, USA


Director:  Vincenzo Natali Writer(s): 
Vincenzo Natali

Antoinette Terry Bryant

Doug Taylor

Vincenzo Natali

Antoinette Terry Bryant

Cast: Adrien Brody, Brandon McGibbon, David Hewlett, Delphine Chanéac, Sarah Polley, Simona Maicanescu
Splice (Review), reviewed by Anders Wotzke on 2010-07-30T17:45:04+00:00 rating 3.5 out of5

Ever since Frankenstein first came alive in the early 20th century, filmmakers have constantly reminded us of  the potential horrors of playing God in the laboratory. And just in case Flubber or The Nutty Professor 2 wasn’t incentive enough to put down those test tubes, here comes indie writer/director Vincenzo Natali — best known for his existential cult hit Cube — with the provocative sci-fi horror Splice.

But viewer discretion is advised; Natali’s mostly solemn treatment of confronting moral and sexual themes makes Splice a film to be admired, not necessarily enjoyed.

Adrien Brody (Predators) and Sarah Polly (Dawn of the Dead [2004]) star as Clive and Elsa, two brilliant genetic engineers working on a hybrid life form that has been spliced together using various samples of animal DNA. The two want to take their research to the next level by incorporating human DNA into the mix – the result of which could potentially cure numerous fatal diseases – but the company funding the research, N.E.R.D, intends to shut down the project once they’ve synthesised a marketable protein. Clive and Elsa, however, aren’t content with stopping just yet and continue their research in secret. Their ethical nightmare of an experiment is a remarkable success, resulting in the birth of a tailed, goat-legged human hybrid named Dren.

Due to her extremely short lifespan, Clive and Elsa recklessly decide to raise Dren in secret and learn from her behavioural traits before dissecting her for genetic research. Even on a tight independent production budget, baby Dren interacts seamlessly with the cast and environment by way of some tremendously good CG character animation. As an adult, she is played by French actress Delphine Chanéac in an intense and challenging role that requires her to undergo constant change without being able to verbalise.  She pulls it off wondrously; not only is Chanéac fascinating to watch, her character is also strangely attractive – similar, in a way, to the Na’vi species in Avatar. But unlike James Cameron’s big-budget crowd-pleaser, Splice is certainly not a film for everyone; Natali is not shy of taking his film down some dark and disturbing paths, and even if you’re not overly keen about the destination, you have to commend him for daring to go there.

2010 splice 0071 e1280477451643 600x264 Splice (Review)

Splice falls in the broad genre of horror, but does not resemble the brash, gory and histrionic slashers that have degraded the genre over the years. No, this is very much a throwback to the multilayered, slow-burning horrors of yesteryear – most prominently David Cronenberg’s The Fly — that frightens not because it jumps at you from the shadows, but because it reflects the deepest and darkest depths of the human experience. This is a film about science of people, not monsters; the characters here are smart yet fallible human beings, not botoxed pincushions waiting in line to be slaughtered.

Both Adrien Brody and Sarah Polly are well cast, successfully conveying their characters inner-conflict between morality and science while also dealing with a number of deeper issues buried in their pasts. Their characters make plainly foolish decisions on numerous occasions, but it’s a testament to the genuineness of their performances and careful structuring of the drama that we aren’t lost to disbelief.

Regrettably, however, Splice does lose its way in the final act. The film basically ‘snaps’ with fifteen minutes to go, completely giving into all the generic and implausible horror conventions it cleverly managed to sidestep beforehand. It’s a disappointing end to an otherwise well-executed 21st century take on Frankenstein that, if you’ve been keeping up with the news lately, is hardly the work of fiction it once was.

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