Saturday 31 July 2010

SPLICE review

Okay, so this was out last week, but I only just got around to watching it. Splice is the new film by Vincenzo Natali starring Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley.
More after the jump...

Whilst working in a genetics lab, Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) perform a secret experiment to mix inter-species DNA with that of a human. The experiment starts to grow and eventually is born as Dren, a new species of being that needs to be nurtured. Can Clive ignore the moral implications and Elsa put aside her own issues to care for the child?

Splice is the latest film from Vincenzo Natali, the director of the low budget 1997 sci-fi hit Cube. That film had a fairly simple but effective concept; you find yourself trapped in a series of interconnecting rooms full of booby traps, and must find your way out. Splice also has one of those killer concepts that surprises you that it's not been done before. The gene splicing story shares some similarities with other genre films, notably Species and The Fly (in fact it has more in common with The Fly II, but no-one remembers that), but it's pretty original stuff.

Clive and Elsa have to keep Dren hidden from the outside world, as she's a valuable commodity that could see them both thrown into jail. They forgot the old Jurassic Park adage that they were so preoccupied figuring out if they could, they never stopped to think if they should, and now they're having to deal with the consequences.

Dren is an innocent creature, but one with some primal instincts. Remember, she's not an alien, she's a new form of animalistic human being. The design of Dren is fantastic. Dren at birth is a bizarre little creature, and as she gets older and Elsa starts to play dress-up with her, things start to get really weird. In her older state she's not that far away from looking human, largely helped by being played by quite a beautiful woman, but with the obvious additions of a tail and bird like legs. There's a weird sexuality to the creature that becomes more and more apparent and equally disturbing over time.

Dren is Elsa's surrogate daughter in more ways than one in this obvious allegory about the joys and pitfalls of parenting. I'm sure there's a lot of mothers out there who could recognise aspects of this story. You watch as your sweet, innocent daughter hits puberty and turns into the bitch from hell. Part of you wants to care for her and part of you just wants to slap her face. Sarah Polley's Elsa has a complicated relationship with Dren, largely dictated by Elsa's own demons and family issues. These are hinted at but never fully explained.

She goes from being a sweet little girl to a tantrum throwing teenager, but with a spike at the end of her tail. Just for a change, she's the one giving out the piercings. All Dren wants to do is spread her wings (not just metaphorically) and she's being held back by her strict 'mother'.

The main driving story is Dren's switch from Mummy's girl to Daddy's girl, as her affections move over to the previously clinical Clive. Elsa becomes the strict mother and Clive's more of the cool stepdad. Adrien Brody's Clive does go through some major character changes as the story progresses, and it's hard to find the justifications for some of his actions. I don't want to get into spoilers but you'll know what I'm referring to when you see it.

Splice is a disturbing film with some very strange imagery. It definitely owes a debt to the work of David Cronenberg, in particular The Fly, and often works better as a concept than it does in execution. It's far from perfect; the first ten minutes are overloaded with bogus science, but at least they move on from that quickly. There's also some unintentional moments of comedy involving Dren's childish crayon drawings of Adrien Brody that actually made me laugh out loud. The ending may leave you with quite a nasty after taste, however this original but flawed film should be commended for what it attempts.


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