Tuesday 30 November 2010


Out now on DVD and Blu-Ray is this Adrien Brody starring horror. Read my review and find out 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. If successful, the results could help unlock many of life's secrets and find cures for some diseases. The experiment starts to grow and eventually is born as Dren, a small bird like creature that quickly starts to evolve into a fully grown woman; at least physically if not mentally. Can Clive ignore the moral implications and Elsa put aside her own issues to care for their creation?

Splice is the latest film from Vincenzo Natali, director of the low budget 1997 sci-fi hit Cube. Cube had a fairly simple but effective concept; you find yourself trapped in a series of interconnecting rooms full of deadly booby traps, and must escape before time runs out. Splice also has one of those killer sci-fi concepts that surprising 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 overall 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 for breaking gene-splicing rules. They've forgotten the old Jurassic Park adage that they were so preoccupied figuring out if they could, they never stopped to think if they should. Well, now they're having to deal with the consequences, left with a young innocent being who needs some guidance.

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 with survival traits from many species, including a deadly retractable spike at the end of her tail. The design of Dren is fantastic. At birth she is a bizarre little creature, but as she gets older things start to get really weird. When Dren reaches adolescence she's not that far away from looking human (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. It's an obvious allegory about the joys and pitfalls of parenting, and 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 some serious mother issues from her childhood, and these demons affect her relationship with Dren.

Although placed against the backdrop of scientific discovery, the main story is Clive and Elsa's relationship with Dren, including her switch from Mummy's girl to Daddy's girl as the previously clinical Clive starts to show her more affection. In this scenario Elsa becomes the strict mother and Clive's more of the cool stepdad who'll let Dren spread her wings (not just metaphorically). 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.

The story is far from perfect, with the first ten minutes overloaded with bogus science that you don't really need to understand anyway, but at least that's moved 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. By the finale it's clear that this experiment has gone way out of control, and the outcome could be attributed to basic primordial nature winning out over nurture.

Much like the experiments Clive and Elsa perform, the film often works better as a concept than it does in execution. Splice is a disturbing film with some very strange imagery that definitely owes a debt to the work of David Cronenberg, in particular The Fly. 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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