Sundance 2010 Review: SPLICE
This review was originally published on: Jan 25, 2010.
It might be cheap to say that if you enjoy David Cronenberg, you should enjoy SPLICE (using one man's art to describe another's). But there are obvious similarities between SPLICE and a large body of Cronenberg's work (if you get the pun, I'm glad that you love Cronenberg too). The big one being a body used to create horror. But in this film, the body was never completely human.
Of course, if SPLICE was just a straight up rip-off of Cronenberg's films it wouldn't work because the two would be too similar. However, SPLICE director Vincenzo Natali is able to have his own fun while giving a respectful nod to master Cronenberg and his other influences.
SPLICE is a 'science gone unintentionally bad' story. Centering around Clive and Elsa (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley), two scientists who run a lab together and are also a couple. They intend to help mankind but ultimately create something awful. In an interview I recently had with Natali, he stated that Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" was also a big inspiration for SPLICE, but you probably figured that out right after I wrote that previous sentence.
Clive and Elsa have created two hybrid creatures (named Fred and Ginger) by splicing the DNA of several different species together. The result resembles in what it would look if a brain and walrus had a baby - so yes, pretty creepy. The reason Clive and Elsa have created these combinations of various living things is due to the fact that when you put all these species together, you also create a protein that is very helpful to humans. Clive and Elsa want to take their research to the next step and create a hybrid that also has human DNA, making the medical gains of such a hybrid greater than those of Fred and Ginger. But it's a much tougher sell to say that you want to make a part-human creature.
Clive and Elsa are told not to go to the next level by their financial backers. As you probably figured out, they go ahead anyway and splice human DNA and create the new being. With this science "miracle," the human trait appears as the most dominant, but only barely. Features of the being include: a tail with a retractable stinger that contains venom, bird-looking legs, and speech composed of clicks and bird-like calls. There are other traits of the creation that Clive and Elsa come to call "Dren," but they are much more enjoyable to find out on your own.
The film can be considered a metaphor about parenthood, as Clive and Elsa raise Dren while she grows at a rapid pace. SPLICE does work on a level more than just the Horror/Sci-Fi sensational aspects. But thankfully, the film doesn't get completely lost in its metaphor or forget to create solid horror moments and memories (no details, I'm not going to ruin anything).
SPLICE does take its time with a nice creep to the big finish, which is fine and not a complaint. Both the horror and simply strange levels of the film gradually rise with the evolution of Dren, and SPLICE does have a crazy third act that can also be filed under awesome.
SPLICE has (and creates) a good time while playing off the works of previous great horror stories and films; generating some nice shocks and twisted laughs.