David already weighed in with his thoughts on the film, but this is the sort of film meant to be discussed and debated. Here’s my review:
Vincenzo Natali’s Splice is a hybrid of horror, fantasy, and cautionary tale blended into a veritable Pandora’s box of provocation intended to make you squirm.
In place of the typical thrills of the modern frightfest are the chills of its disturbing, unexpected turns that poke and prod your sense of morality, not your tolerance for torture and gore.
Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley play a married couple of rebellious, careless genetic researchers named Clive and Elsa after the scientists in the clearly influential Frankenstein. Unsatisfied with harvesting proteins from tongue-like amalgams of animal DNA (and apparently CGI), Elsa suggests introducing human genes into the batch to achieve the necessary results.
With their curiosities piqued and their intentions mostly noble, the pair defies their corporate backers, laws of nature and society, and, of course, logic. You’d think two genetic researchers would have at least heard of Frankenstein. Their concoction produces a creepy, cute creature that mutates and evolves from a skittish, bird-like critter to a full-fledged adult (played by Delphine Chanéac) unable to suppress her various instincts.
Affectionately called Dren — the name itself a jumble of the letters in “nerd” — the bizarre creation is a marvel of special effects that replace Chanéac’s legs with the bent-back limbs of a chicken, remove a finger from her hands, and adds a swishing tail with an embedded talon. Dren’s human characteristics and dangerous tendencies tamper with the audience’s empathy, flitting between adorable to terrifying, titillating to repulsive, organically enough that it sparked vocal disgust and nervous laughter in my local theater.
Core concepts of responsibility (scientific and parental) crouch below the surface, especially as Elsa protects and teaches her “offspring” while struggling with her own memories of motherhood. She vehemently objects when Clive makes rational suggestions to destroy Dren, clouded from the obvious results of their decision by her own emotions. Even the grandmother of the project (a deliberately androgynous [?] Simona Maicanescu) turns a blind eye in the name of profit.
The film suffers a bit as its human beings fail to reevaluate their developing situation, like the fact that their previous protein farms are capable of morphing into killer blobs, which sets up a more mainstream, violent climax in an otherwise unconventional creature feature.
Natali, who explored the trappings of man in the low-budget sci-fi story Cube, weaves his way through the debate of science versus morality in Splice. Global labs are on the brink of medical breakthroughs that could cure numerous disease that plague humanity, but you might ask at what cost? Especially after seeing this film.
3.5 out of 5.