I’ve got a one sentence review of Splice, the latest sci-fi/horror film currently playing in theaters, but it doesn’t an article make. If you really want to read/hear it, you’ll have to swear you’re not planning on watching it…in theaters at least…because if I had to suffer through the film, you do too. For my extended review, read on.
The beginning of Splice literally births us into a genetic lab to a “father” and “mother,” Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley), a couple of rock-star scientists whose research has landed them on the cover of Wired. They’re working on a genetic mutation that will produce protein capable of treating livestock, yet one of them, Elsa, wants to step it up a notch in search of cures for diseases that plague humans. To do so, they will need to insert human DNA into the experiment. She doesn’t have to work too hard to force her pushover boyfriend Clive to follow along, but she does insert her own DNA, when other test subjects’ DNA fails, behind his back. This “next level” research is successful, at first, as it creates a hybrid being that at first looks like a large chicken, but then grows to resemble a human with bird-like legs and a tail (see below). Oh yeah, Dren, as they name her, becomes more “attractive” as well which presents a whole other host of problems for Clive. As they struggle to raise Dren and keep her a secret, Clive and Elsa must move forward with their initial research. Their first creations meet a hilarious, untimely death which does not bode will for Dren’s future either.
The first half of the film makes for some interesting viewing as it raises a host of ethical concerns and questions including genetic engineering, gender, abortion, and family politics. Clive and Elsa do engage in the requisite moral/ethical conversations if only cursorily to establish conflict between the two. Yet the second half of the film rapidly devolves into a horrid mess. Mind you, there’s absolutely nothing scary about this so-called “horror” film aside from the occasional jump from behind the corner and the requisite loud burst of noise. The second half of the film, or so, is disgusting and quite offensive…and films hardly ever offend me. There are two disturbing sex scenes that really have absolutely no place here. Again, I am not against sex and violence in cinema, but they should at least serve a semblance of a purpose. Contrary to Splice, the film, Old Boy, contains a similar potentially-offensive scene, but I love that film because it is integral to the narrative. The twists and turns that Splice slogs through are nothing more than signs of unimaginative writers, Vincenzo Natali (who also directed) and Antoinette Terry Bryant, who take the easy way out rather than thoughtfully following through on the topics and tone that the first half of the film establishes.
Theofantastique has raised an interesting discussion about the lack of attention that Splice is receiving in theaters and questions what type of audience is seeing or refusing to see the film. I think when critics on one side of the argument claim that the film is substantive and intellectual is simply saying too much. It raises substantive questions and intelligent points but is not intelligent enough to provide any answers of its own aside from grotesque, contrived, half-hearted responses. Perhaps the “intelligentsia” are staying away because they can smell crap from a mile away.
Splice (104 mins) is rated Rated R for disturbing elements including strong sexuality, nudity, sci-fi violence and language.