Re:View – ‘Splice’

The Arts

Easily the most underrated (and unseen) SF film of the year, ‘Splice’ revisits the rich territory of experimental science with a story that feels closely allied to Cronenberg’s remake of ‘The Fly’. Director Vincenzo Natali made ‘Cube’ and here makes another small-scale drama rich by applying intelligent SF ideas to it.

Two scientists in love, Clive and Elsa (spot the movie reference there) are played by Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody, who oppose the shutdown of their genetics laboratory by hiding its greatest experiment, a human gene-splice that appears to have worked. Usually when the higher-ups get a sniff of experimental success they start developing WMD, but here big business wants products, so the scientists take their experiment – growing at an abnormally fast rate, natch, otherwise we’d have to wait for the story – and hide it in a barn.

A running gag here is that the biochemists are forging a new family unit they are ill-prepared to manage. They may be great scientists, but they’re lousy parents. You just know it’s going to end badly.

Audiences probably had every right to expect a monster-on-the-loose scenario, especially as an early scene has the little bugger running free in a lab just like in ‘Aliens’. However, Natali has bigger issues in his sights as a strangely beautiful and potentially lethal creature grows from the gene-splice. Walking on ostrich legs and sporting a wicked sting, ‘Dren’ (‘Nerd’ backwards) grows to maturity. The part-CGI creature is played by Delphine Chaneac with an astonishing combination of pathos and sensuality.

There’s an unbelievable eleventh-hour lurch in the plot which reduces the power of the fable, but this is a brave attempt at something new which deserves to find a wider audience.

5 comments on “Re:View – ‘Splice’”

  1. Helen Martin says:

    I saw the ads for this but it was made to seem like your average dumb scary sci fi thing so I didn’t even think about it. I really dislike movie promos because they never tell you what the movie is really about. It’s as if the director is secretly trying to put some sort of thought in your head but doesn’t dare tell you what it is so they cover it up by showing only some unimportant wild action moment in the promos. And as for the newspaper ads! (foams madly at the mouth.)

  2. Just saw it, not impressed.

    Couple of scientists wrestle about two seconds with ethical issues and then merrily segue into silly parenthood that morphs into a creepy ménage à trois with even creepier paedophile overtones with a creature that sprouts extensions from nowhere at the drop of a plot turn (and then absorbs then back into some hyperspace pocket, obviously).

    I was expecting something a bit less focused on parenting problems, a great American linchpin for plots — at least we just skirted and were spared the father/son problematic relationship and divorced father heartache that so many US movies revolve around.

  3. admin says:

    Patrick, how many watchable SF B-movies have you seen this year?

  4. I’m not sure they came out this year but I very much enjoyed MOON and, to a lesser extent, PONTYPOOL. And I refuse to excuse the silliness of a movie by the paucity of candidates. I’m very annoyed to hear people, more and more often, coming out of a movie saying: “Well, it wasn’t good, but I was pleasantly surprised, as I expected worse”. Or “Bah, you mustn’t expect too much, just watch it with your brain disengaged”, and other formulas of lowered expectations.

    SPLICE doesn’t make much sense (the plot jumps without warning from a pseudo-rabbit with no forelegs to a young woman with a smattering of weird bits, for a dash of exoticism) and it’s hardly SF: pretty soon, the plot is all about this strange adopted child and the reactions it excites in the not very bright and rather dysfunctional couple. It could be about a homicidal teenager or a pet tiger, and the story would basically be the same, except for the SFX flourishes which amount to candy for the eyes and rot for the brain.

    I was bored throughout the movie. I didn’t find the couple even interestingly stupid. They were just dull. What a pair of maroons!

    I’m so starved for a SF film with a clever and original plot! You know what? No need even to be original: clever would be nice by itself.

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