{Copperheart Entertainment; Gaumont; Dark Castle Entertainment; Warner Bros.; Steve Hoban; Guillermo del Toro; Vincenzo Natali; Canada; Sci-Fi, Horror}


2.5 Stars

When someone turns to you and asks “Wanna go see a movie?”, the last thought in your head is a movie about a raising an accelerated growing animal child trying to balance out the animalistic and human intricacies developed within her life.

Well, that’s the general premise of the movie Splice, with Guillermo del Toro producing the piece directed by Vincenzo Natali. Two young lover scientists named Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) set out to create the ultimate multi-species tissue that can be used to cure diseases in every area. I’m no quite sure how it all works out, but it’s all sciencey stuff, so it’s slightly believable. The investors of this project are part of the higher ups at the company N.E.R.D. (Nucleic Exchange Research & Development) who want to profit big off of the findings.

After a successful cloning of two strange life forms, one male and another female, the excited scientists want to move into adding human DNA into the mix. The investors (David Hewlett and Simona Maicanescu) back off from further experiments in fear of the controversy human DNA would bring into the mix. N.E.R.D. (not the band) pulls funding, and the scientists go for it anyway in the secret, rebellious, and independent style.

As a matter of fact, Clive and Elsa seem to have this “indie rock” approach to the rest of the cloning process. It’s almost distracting to the events themselves. The “science” in the movie to starts bend to the spoon-fed audience in the picture. Granted, I’ve only watched NOVA documentaries about science, but I’ve never seen Windows 98 warning screens appear in those documentaries when cells didn’t divide. It’s usually explained by the scientists as she looks into the microscope as nothing happens. Maybe I just love science too much to forget about this one, but it still seems like you’re watching two kids play “scientist” rather than watching actual scientists on a lab experiment.

So after the “Indie Rock Computer Screen Science” sequence, Clive and Elsa discuss the moral implications of what they did in bed under their giant anime poster. (Oh, I get it! They’re “N.E.R.D.”s!) This is when the film starts introducing more character conflicts and finally becomes more believably interesting. Clive isn’t too sure of the project, whereas Elsa plunges head first into the creation of the animal-child.

The movie goes onto to introduce more character secrets and strange developments of the animal-child, who they name “Dren”. (Yes, it’s N.E.R.D. spelled backwards.) Vincenzo Natali guilds the viewer through the strange, and at times disturbing elements of the film very well, making it the most my head has been played with by a commercial North American movie release since a Stanley Kubrick film. Granted, most of the disturbance in Splice was crafted in a strictly visual sense rather than a psychological trip, but still very effective nonetheless. In fact the whole character of Dren can be seen as a sort of counterpoint against itself. In her early life she’s very cute, and she grows into a beautiful creature (with sexual impulses), and yet she’s always surprising everyone around her with more and more absurd possibilities of the mixed genetics within herself. And in doing do she pushes the viewer further and further into this creepy feeling that attempts to crawl under your skin and linger there.

But in the end, unlike Kubrick‘s movies, none of the ideas presented in the film are pushed to their fullest potentials. And the investor, which were supposed to pose as a threat to Dren, only seem to come off as dimwitted and obnoxious. And the whole subject of morals vs. science is pushed to the point of sounding preachy.

Splice is a very average movie that tries to mess with your head with counterpoint visuals and strange situations between scientist and experiment. It’s a good one-time watch, but really doesn’t leave you with any reason to watch it again.


"Dren" hovers over her maker, Elsa Kast.


About Stefan D. Byerley
Stefan D. Byerley is an independent filmmaker and freelance visual artist currently residing in North Carolina. He likes detailed storytelling, intriguing imagery, massive bloody violence, crying at the movies, and long walks in the park during the Autumn season.

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