Seven years ago, the Coalition of the Willing casually toppled Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard. Although the battle for Baghdad was relatively uneventful, the Western World was riddled with anxious questions about possible caches of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Where were they? How many were there? Who controlled them? Were they supernatural?
as a monster-baby movie in the It’s Alive mold, Splice is actually one of the most intriguing genre outings in
quite some time. Co-written and directed by Cube auteur Vincenzo Natali, Splice is an unconventional movie that
seems to change style and tone on a scene-by-scene basis.
The film is at
once a monster romp, sci-fi thought experiment, terrifying parental allegory,
and cautionary tale about genetic engineering. That’s a lot of balls to keep
juggle at once, but fortunately Natali nimbly dips in and out of each seemingly
disparate element with enough skill to turn Splice
into a potential cult film in the making.
Adrien Brody and
Sarah Polley star as Clive and Elsa, a pair of implausibly attractive
scientists, who have successfully spliced a variety of
animal genes to create a disgusting little creature that looks like a slimy
slug-brain rich with life-saving proteins. Their next step is to splice in
human DNA but their investors suddenly back out. Clive and Elsa secretly create
their human/animal hybrid, ending up with a strange little infant with a
poisonous tail and kangaroo legs.
initially planned to destroy their creation but Elsa becomes protective of the
rapidly growing monster girl. Although childhood trauma keeps Elsa from wanting
to become a mother, Dren gives Elsa the chance to rear a child within the
comforting confines of a sterile laboratory. However, the surrogate parents
slowly realize that life can’t be so easily contained, and the remainder of the
film toggles between a cautionary tale of science run amok and a disturbing
Freudian allegory for parental anxiety.
Though light on
drippy gore, there are certainly enough shock sequences to please the horror
hounds and enough subtext to win over viewers who don’t typically enjoy getting
scared in the dark. The monster created by a mixture of practical effects, CGI,
and actors is a remarkable technical creation. The fact that the creature has
enough psychological complexity to win audience sympathy without losing its
sense of movie-monster danger is undoubtedly what impressed Guillermo Del Toro
(Pan’s Labyrinth) enough to attach his name to the project as an executive
But despite all
of the stylistic and technical tricks, Splice
is ultimately a movie that succeeds on the depth of its themes and strength of
its uncommonly good cast. Natali proved himself to be a intelligent director
capable of audience mind-melting
with Cube, but here
finally has the budget and cast necessary to match his ideas. Adrien Brody and
Sarah Polley are fantastic as the leads, while Delphine Chaneac is
heartbreaking as Dren. Brody might sometimes be difficult to take seriously as
an imposing action lead, but works perfectly as a weak-willed scientist.
However, it’s Polley who steals the movie and ends up being more frightening
than the monster as the questionable maternal instincts imposed on her by an
abusive childhood begin to take over.
Though Splice is being released through Warner
Brothers’ Dark Castle label, it’s actually an
uncommonly high-budgeted Canadian film that’s been years in the making. It’s
also one of the best movies to come out of Canada in a while, a brainy shocker
that would make David Cronenberg proud.