From the moment I first saw its frightening and disturbing trailers, I was looking forward to watching “Splice,” a film about a biochemical experiment gone awry. I walked into the theater with my daughter, Stephanie, who is my faithful companion for horror films, and both of us were eager to be scared to death.
Unfortunately “Splice” registered no higher than a disappointing three or four on the fright meter, and after a relatively strong beginning, it degenerated into a comically improbable, grossly grotesque, and shamefully predictable debacle. Director Vincenzo Natali (“Cube”) apparently wanted to make a combination of “Frankenstein,” “E.T.,” and “Alien,” but he ended up creating a film that will more than likely be remembered for its disgusting scenes instead of its favorable ones.
Clive Natoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) are a couple of hotshot biochemists who have discovered how to create strange new creatures by splicing together the DNA from other animals. Their latest triumphs are named Fred and Ginger, and they resemble gray slugs that have been exposed to enough radiation that they have become 1000 times their normal size.
Because they have been so successful in their research and experimentation, Clive and Elsa want to move to the next level in producing something with human DNA that could have a major impact on the scientific world. But the large pharmaceutical company that funds their work, refuses to back the project, and so they do what any good scientist would do. They proceed in secrecy, and end up creating a creature that has both human and monstrous traits.
They name their new “child” Dren (Delphine Chaneac) Dren, and the rest of the film deals with their trials and tribulations as they attempt to cope what the strange being they have created. In her infancy, Dren looks somewhat like a bald bird with the face of a rabbit, but when she becomes an adult, she has the face of a lovely woman with tiny ears who has shaved her head, chicken-like legs that bend the wrong way, and a tail. And she communicates either by spelling out words with scrabble tiles or emitting a series of squawking screeches.
Now it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or a biochemist) to figure out that despite the love lavished on her by Elsa, Dren will fall victim to the bad DNA in her system and morph from a placid freak to a raging beast. Instead of creating the desired sense of horror, this metamorphosis produces a number of scenes that are actually laughable instead of frightening.
Because of its fascinating subject matter, this movie really grabbed me at the beginning, but when the writers, the director, or whoever decided to include a scene in which Clive and Dren have sex in a barn, I wasn’t sure whether to leave or vomit. And as the film progressed toward its insultingly predictable ending, I found myself wishing that final half hour of the film had been sliced instead of spliced.
To the film’s credit, both Brody and Polley are outstanding in their respective parts, and they are incredibly successful in conveying the increasingly conflicting thoughts and emotions of their characters as Dren becomes more and more of a problem. Chaneac’s rendering of Dren also is impressive as are the makeup and special effects involved with her character.
Additionally the movie certainly provides some food for thought about scientific advancements. In the production notes, Natoli spoke about how fast technology is advancing.
“The technology is advancing so rapidly, I think it took scientists less time to map the human genome than it took to write the script. How does ‘Splice’ fit into the world we live in now? I don’t even know what world that is. I don’t think anyone does. Things are changing in dramatic ways in all aspects of our civilization, culture and science, and that’s something ‘Splice’ explores: our relationship to technology and the doors it unlocks. It pushes us to places we’re unable, or afraid, to go.”
“Clive and Elsa are smarter than they are wise, and while they play with the building blocks of life, they don’t really have any deep understanding of what life is. You could say this is a coming-of-age film in that they are forced to grow up and become responsible parents, in a sense. As Dren becomes a catalyst for their own darker needs, she sets off a downward spiral of their scientific ideologies obscured by the moral imperatives of parenthood. We watch the humans turn into monsters, as the monster reveals its humanity. On the surface, the message is about what happens when you play with genetics. But at a deeper level, it’s about being responsible for the things you make.”
Thus, Natoli is responsible for making a film that begins very strongly and deteriorates after the inclusion of a particularly disgusting and repulsive scene. So what is the final score here? Well, the first part gets a nine, but we’ll give the rest of it 0, and that results in a score of 4.5 after I spliced the two together and divided by two.