Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Splice (2010)

The mysteries of human life can be very frightening. There's so much we don't know about our DNA, and what it holds, that there's nothing really out of the realm of possibility. Though DNA was unknown in her day, Mary Shelley wrote her playing-God masterpiece Frankenstein about the troubles one can encounter when manipulating human life. In today's age, the debates over the ethics of genetics rage on, and Splice wants to offer a solid glimpse into genetic horror, but is unfortunately mangled in the end.
Splice is about two brilliant genetic splicers, Clive (Adrian Brody) and Else (Sarah Polley), who have been working on a genetic breakthrough: the creation of new creatures that can produce a protein valuable to human medicine. However, when they learn that their splicing facility is being shut down, they decide to break the rules and add human DNA to the splicing, creating a creature that is part human. The pair plan to kill it, but when Else starts developing maternal feelings for it, it becomes a responsibility that is dangerous in more ways than they ever imagined.
The film gets off to a terrific start, with a great premise and solid chemistry between Brody and Polley; they're a rare screen horror pairing (or, honestly, screen pairing in general) that you can believe would be attracted to one another. They're both shamelessly geeky, proud nerds who flaunt their intelligence as their defining characteristic. The creatures they create legally, Fred and Ginger, and the illicit Dren are deliciously grotesque creations, legitimately creepy and unsettling. Director Vincenzo Natali (who co-wrote the script with Antoinette Terry Bryant and Doug Taylor) is like a commercialized hybrid of David Lynch and David Cronenberg, lending the proceedings disgusting gore and a skillful blend of themes as he taps into the ethics of genetic splicing, the fear of what lurks with us, and, most impressively, the horror that is raising a child. Splice succeeds best on this front, as Dren becomes a surrogate child for Clive and Else, and they face the same kinds of problems that the parents of "normal" children face. Its a clever move for the film to take, and one that I wish the film would have explored further.
Unfortunately, the whole thing falls apart in the third act. As Dren grows up, she becomes more and more volatile, since she's now entering her teen and adult year. This leads to some interesting ideas; but the film decides that the best of them is for Clive to have sex with the creature. From here, what could have been delightfully weird just becomes stupid, with a lame final act and a revelation that's a groaner (even though it shouldn't have been). The film just completely throws everything it had been building towards out for a mediocre "horror" finale that ditches the logic and character development it had been building in the rest of the film. It could, and should, have been transcendent. Instead it just falls on its face.
Splice is two-thirds of a great cerebral horror film, one that could have ranked among the ranks of the best. Instead, it ends up squandering that promise to be one of the most disappointing films of the year.


Anonymous said...

Hey Jason,

Stumbling around the very lengthy Lamb list of movie blogs and happened here. Found your Splice article pretty accurate to my own sentiments and I'd enjoy hearing your thoughts on my review of the same film over at Above the Line:

Nice points about Shelly and I agree that the concept was there it just failed in the execution - which I believe is a defect in most if not all concept-over-content films these days. Everyone is racing to make the next new genre hot property or capitalize on current events in order to bolster ticket sales. In the end films like Splice invariably fall apart, some sooner than others. I think you were kind in your assessment it lasts as long as it does; I actually feel that it falls apart shortly into the second act when it becomes apparent all the clues and otherwise interesting character development is going to get wrapped up with an unsightly bow at the end of the movie. Too much reliance on the sequel factor, though hard to imagine this taking off given the short lived and only slightly more successful Species franchise.

Anyhoo, come see me at my blow and say hello. I'll enjoy looking around your site.

Dustin said...

Couldn't agree with you more about the third act of Splice. The film itself began intelligently only to devolve into silliness and what Freud would consider fate.

Jason H. said...

@rorydean - Nice review. Yeah, I agree with the concept-over-content idea. I was hoping the ending wouldn't be the cop-out it was, but I still feel the second act had some good things going for it. Hopefully, there won't be any sequels, though it seems that everything gets on nowadays.

@Dustin - Maybe its better if viewed from a Freudian point of view ;)