Movie Review: Splice (2010)
Splice opens in cinemas across Australia on 12 August 2010
I’ve always had an unheathy fascination with monsters, mutants and freaks of nature. There’s just something about them that intrigues and yet unsettles me. Unfortunately, the track record of such films have — let’s face it — not been great.
And so it was with some reserved excitement that I went to see a media preview screening of Splice (with an unprecedented full house), the latest sci-fi horror offering from director and co-writer Vincenzo Natali (the guy who brought us the excellent and innovative Cube) and executive producer Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy). I thought, if anyone could pull off a worthy sci-fi horror about genetic experimentation gone wrong, it’s these two dudes.
So? Well, I think they came very very close.
Splice tells the story of a hip scientist couple, Clive and Elsa (played by a pre-buffed, pre-Predators Adrien Brody and an older, post-hot Sarah Polley, you know, the blonde girl from Go and Dawn of the Dead), who have become rockstars of the scientific community for their breakthroughs in splicing DNA of different animals to create weird mutant hybrids. The next step is to splice animal and human DNA, but of course their corporate sponsors don’t approve. Just to prove they could do it, Clive and Elsa take their experiments underground…
As usual, the less known about the plot the better, but it’s not hard to guess what happens next. Splice follows a familiar trajectory (a bit of Frankenstein with a touch of Species 2), but it doesn’t mean it’s still not a genuinely creepy, unsettling, and at times utterly bizarre film well worth your time. Especially if you are into (extremely well-designed) freaks!
The film is anchored by the strong performance of Adrien Brody (having now seen him in back-to-back movies in completely different roles and physically transformed, I can only say I am impressed with this guy). Sarah Polley picks her up her acting towards the end, but there was something about her dialogue in the first half of the film that didn’t ring true. I’m not sure if it’s her or the script. The other standout is their ‘creation’, Dren, played by newcomer Delphine Chaneac and spliced with terrific special effects. She’s creepy.
Splice is not without its flaws. It was difficult to connect with the protagonists who are supposed to be intelligent people but they keep doing incredibly stupid, unlikable and non-sensical things. There were a couple of grossly over-the-top moments that generated more laughter than horrified gasps from the crowd, though that may have been intentional. The ‘twists’ were also a little too telegraphed and obvious for my liking.
But these are relatively minor complaints because Splice doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. I’m glad Natali made it a straight horror/psychological thriller as opposed to some sort of deep philosophical contemplation about the slippery slope of genetic engineering, because that would have totally ruined it.
Splice is no masterpiece, but it’s rare to see a sci-fi horror these days that is actually scary, entertaining, well-acted and doesn’t completely fall apart by the end.
4 stars out of 5!
PS: I can’t think of many good sci-fi horrors depicting experimental freaks of nature off the top of my head. I mentioned Frankenstein and Species 2, but I’m sure there are others. I thought Frankenstein (the one with Robert De Niro) was pretty good, but let’s be honest — we all know why people flocked to see Species.
PPS: Oh, forgot about the underrated The Island of Dr Moreau.