DIRECTED BY: Vincenzo Natali
PLOT: When two geneticists (Brody and Polley) mix some human DNA into a cloning
experiment, they end up with a rapidly aging chimera child whom neither of them can control.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Despite some bizarre mutation imagery, most of the film remains solidly within the realm of the horror-infused family melodrama, and tends to be more icky than weird.
COMMENTS: Canadian writer-director Natali, best known for his low-budget thriller Cube, has created a love letter to mad scientist stories, from Frankenstein to Cronenberg’s The Fly. All the expected clichés are present and accounted for, from the sterile, blue-tinted milieu of industrial science right down to the Jurassic Park-worthy mantra of “What’s the worst that could happen?” In Splice, however, these trappings are refashioned to create a demented parable about the dangers of bad parenting, and much of the film’s commentary in this vein is delightfully on-target. The scientific method gets entangled with the geneticists’ emotional hang-ups as they try to raise the part-human Dren (Chanéac). This results in hilarious exchanges like one where Brody cries, “Specimens need to be contained!” and Polley responds, “Don’t call her that!”
However, as the story moves from the laboratory to a rural farmhouse, the film realizes its unpleasantly taboo-violating trajectory. From there on in, the film trades its humorous insights in for gross-outs and gore, with a climax so unnecessarily vile it makes you want to take a shower while bemoaning its reductive view of gender. Still, Splice has a lot to offer the weird movie fan, as certain images, such as a press conference that becomes a bloodbath or Dren’s development into a bald, feral adolescent, won’t soon be forgotten. Like his characters, Natali is a kind of mad scientist, deftly integrating the pains of child rearing into an age-old sci-fi premise; maybe next time, there’ll be a little more method to his madness.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“It’s fascinating, sweet and especially grotesque – a distorted aspect of an overall analysis of post-millennial parental fears – all at the same time, and makes for some utterly bizarre imagery. In fact, I think I can say, without a shred of hyperbole, that this movie has some of the strangest moments you’ll see on film this year. If not in the next several years. Or maybe you’ve already seen a man dancing the waltz with a beautiful woman who is reverse jointed, has a mirror effect face, a monkey’s tail and a scorpion’s stinger?”–Nick DaCosta, Eye for Film (contemporaneous)