No sooner than I finish watching this movie ‘Splice’ do I come home and see a show about some Chinese scientist splicing together mice and wombat genes to create his own brand new species. Somebody stop this guy! Doesn’t he watch movies?
Anyway, genetic researchers Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) are young and in love and are genetic creature splicing fools. They have just birthed their latest creation, which is the male version of some kind of blob looking thing made from like every animal on the planet earth for reasons that I am not quite sure of. Something to do with a synthesized protein that the Mega Corp they work for needs to do something or another. Vagaries aside Clive and Elsa are ready to take their experimentation to the next level, that being introducing Human DNA into their mitochondrial stew, but their CEO Joan Chiorot (Simona Maicanescu) has other plans with this fancy new biotech that include something not related to Human DNA experiments which have our geneticist all in a tizzy.
Now what? I know, let’s ignore the CEO and all recognized responsible scientific practices and do this anyway! So Clive and Elsa get to working on the right mix of some anonymous human DNA donor and their animal DNA stew that will work in theory, never planning to inseminate once they figure out scientific process. They eventually figure it out but Elsa wants to inseminate and runs some psychological okey-doke on the simple minded Clive why this is a good thing. That being established, now they just want to observe it develop and will abort this fetus in no time. Damn if the fetus doesn’t go to term. No problem, Clive will just kill the fetus but Elsa runs her mental okey doke on Clive yet again as they agree to let this thing with its accelerated growth cycle live its presumable short life and die.
Elsa names this thing Dren and begins the process of mothering her. Elsa had a real messed up childhood so this is kind of her way of proving to herself that she isn’t messed up like her own mother. But while these two are running their little side
experiment, their main experiment, the one that is actually legally funded, is going all to hell. Plus Dren is getting bored and a little violent, considering she’s a full grown woman and all, and she wants to experience some things. Worse is that Elsa seems to have picked up more of her crazy mothers tendencies than she cares to admit. Worse still that Clive is finding himself oddly attracted to this thing he’s been playing surrogate father to. Hey Clive, just because something has a vagina doesn’t necessarily mean we should make use of it. Just throwing that out there. Death, murder, mayhem and rape shall quickly ensue.
‘Splice’ is an interesting mix of many different types of genre’s though I don’t know if it fully succeeds at any of them. The trailers would have you believing that this is a monster movie creature feature and for the first ninety percent of this movie it’s anything but that. The last ten minutes or so the movie completely switches gears and becomes the monster movie you might’ve thought you were getting but by that time its too late because for the first 90 minutes we were watching a drama about a fractured, messed up family and a tale of the perils of science gone wrong.
For the most part, despite the misleading marketing campaign, Vincenzo Natali’s film was working fairly well along these lines even though the pace was little slow and the narrative seemed to have trouble finding a decent footing and developing a rhythm. It helps that the story is clear and concise, the tale is constructed in a clever fashion where everything fits and rewards the viewer that is paying close attention. Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley are very good actors and they carried the movie well and were also able to sell me on their faulty science though they didn’t do a very good job of explaining to me why the character of Elsa had this Svengali type hold on Clive’s psyche to the point he agreed to pretty much everything she told him to do no matter what the consequences.
So ‘Splice’ is humming along, slowly but steadily, and we’re patiently waiting for the stuff to jump off. Has to happen. And of course everything eventually does go straight to hell, I mean you can’t keep a sexually charged amphibious teenaged animal human hybrid with a stinger tail and the ability to fly locked away in a barn forever, but now a movie that was smart and clever just turned into something really, really weird. Really weird.
I’m hard pressed to explain exactly what the thought process was in dreaming up the conclusion for this movie and what it was trying to tell me. It didn’t help that Natali was unable or didn’t plan on building any real tension during the film which made the suddenly hectic and violent end of the film feel even more out of place.
‘Splice’ is admirable in many ways because the filmmakers were shooting for something much higher than a simple creature feature and they succeeded in that. But just because this movie is more than a creature feature doesn’t necessarily make it better than a creature feature. ‘Splice’ felt like it was on the cusp of something that was borderline remarkable but ultimately left me feeling a little empty and more than a little disappointed.