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Ravings Of A Film Fanatic: Splice

Words by Chris Elms

“We’re bio-chemists, we can handle this.” - Every review I read for this flick, compared it with 90s sci-fi b-picture, Species. I guess they are kinda similar (although it has been over 5 years since I last saw Species), in that they’re brand of sci-fi is significantly less avant garde than the likes of Moon or Blade Runner, and in tone too, they’re quite dark and gloomy films (come to think of it, so are Moon and Blade Runner, but in a different way). Both also feature un-natural, sinister and potentially lethal life-forms essentially pitted against us humans. Where the similarities end, is where the titular Species was an alien from outer space (I might be wrong), the life-form in Vincenzo Natali’s Splice is man-made.

The plot goes thusly: A modern couple - both bio-chemists – working on cutting-edge gene-splicing techniques for a large company (if what the company actually does was mentioned I must have missed it), decide to take their experiments in creating life to the next level by introducing human DNA. This leads to ‘Dren’, their own life-form who grows rapidly and exhibits some human, but mainly volatile and dangerously animalistic behaviour. The couple decide to ‘raise’ Dren out of combination of curiosity and parental instinct, and as you can imagine, the crazy critter gets a little out of hand.

The whole flick is essentially one giant parable for parenting. Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody are a big reason I wanted to see this. They’re overall body of work is pretty damn solid, Polley played the strong heroine in Zack Snyder’s awesome remake of Dawn of the Dead and in particular Brody’s performance as Jack Starks in The Jacket (a criminally under-rated and beautiful film I love the hell out of) is fantastic. Every other cast member and character is just scenery, Splice is firmly about this couple, and their creation of course. To begin with, their motives for the experiment are a combination of scientific curiosity and a secret middle finger to the company that wants to restrict their research. If you want a modern-day take on Frankenstein, this is it. Just like Dr. Frankenstein, our scientist couple have the ability to play God, and when they do so, they get off on the power. Thing is, they are not God, the life they create is an abomination and poses a massive threat to themselves and the people around them.

The ‘creation’ scene itself is actually a really slick piece of film-making. Instead of corpses and electricity like in Frankenstein, we now have DNA and laboratories, and the demented genius in the secluded castle is now a geeky couple who put their careers first. In this respect it adds another contemporary slant to the famous tale, as Polley’s character Elsa (no doubt named after The Bride herself) doesn’t want to have kids as it will interfere with the couple’s job. So when Dren is born, what starts off as a what-the-hell, quick science experiment quickly turns into their child.

Almost immediately, Elsa forms a connection with Dren. Brody’s Clive is all up for killing it when they see just how insane what they’ve done is, but Elsa’s already in crazy-mother mode. The new-born Dren is an ugly, horrible little creature, but instead, she sees her daughter. They become the basic parental archetypes, the mum has an immensely strong bond with the ‘child’, ignoring glaring imperfections, choosing to only focus on the good, and the dad is reluctant, somewhat distant and the strong authority figure (though eventually he too, begins to see the daughter he doesn’t have). Over the film Dren grows up rapidly (eventually being played by actress Delphine Chaneac under a lot of make-up and CGI) and our protagonists have to hide her from their colleagues and attempt to raise her.

It’s around about here where I started losing interest. Maybe it’s because I’m not a father, but I couldn’t see why these highly intelligent people would let themselves fall prey to their own creation. They take Dren home, dress her in clothes, teach her shit, all the time I’m thinking you two are SCIENTISTS for Christ’s sake, you of all people should have killed the damn thing when it was abundantly clear it was nothing but trouble. Seriously, even as a weird foetus like thing with legs, Dren is clearly going to fuck shit up, it’s just a matter of time.

Dren herself is like an animal, she’s really more like a pet than a daughter, but then that doesn’t stop those crazy ladies that dress their cats in little costumes and call them their babies, does it? I just thought it was a little dumb that our characters would end up in the same boat. Dren is very obviously dangerous, she has a tail with a sharp stinger, a lot of strength, crazy agility and can breathe under-water… so yeah, take her home. To quote Elsa herself, “What’s the worst that could happen?”

Towards the end of the flick I didn’t have a lot of sympathy for the creature or the protagonists. Clive fares better to begin with, but later there’s a scene where he and Dren *SPOILER ALERT* literally get it on, and it’s beyond retarded. Saying that, I also didn’t hate the couple enough to enjoy watching their lives fall apart, so you have this marose sort of bland middle ground as a viewer. You’re just sorta there, not giving a shit about anything really.

Overall I found it fell apart in the third act. While it has a ton of cool and interesting things to say and discuss, Splice fell just shy of average for me. There’s a lot to like, but I personally found a little bit more to dislike.

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